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State review faults prison officials

Thu., July 28, 2011

Guard’s killing exposes flaws, report says

OLYMPIA – Department of Corrections managers failed to enforce their own policies or provide proper training for subordinates, exacerbating problems surrounding the January death of an officer, state regulators said Wednesday.

The Department of Labor and Industries proposed a fine of $26,000 for the failures at Monroe Correctional Complex while releasing a report that seem to counter an internal account of who was to blame. The Corrections Department’s own report released last week largely discussed the oversights of staff members who were slow to discover Officer Jayme Biendl was missing.

Seven workers currently face possible disciplinary actions.

Teamsters Local 117 said the external investigation exposed a culture of complacency and neglect among DOC management.

“The organization must be held accountable and safety measures must be put into place immediately to protect all correctional employees,” said Tracey Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.

The Labor and Industries probe determined that management did not enforce rules, including one that directed Biendl to assist staff in a nearby building once her chapel duties were complete. Her absence did not cause alarm because that order was not consistently followed or enforced by supervisors.

In another section, L&I found that the department did not ensure officers had reviewed orders as required by policy. The review also determined that DOC lacked a variety of policies, such as how to respond to emergency radio transmissions.

Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner said the agency is taking action to address issues raised in the L&I investigation, including more staff training and a review of safety procedures.

“As a result of this investigation, we will closely examine every level of the agency to determine what systematic changes we need to make,” Warner said.

A corrections spokesman said officials haven’t decided whether to appeal the fine. They have 15 business days to do so.

The internal corrections department review focused largely on the specific actions of workers instead of systemic failings.


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