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Washington Correctional Officers To Protest Following Assaults

Washington Department of Corrections

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It’s been nearly two years since Washington corrections officer Jayme Biendl was murdered on the job. But the union that represents prison guards says safety is still a major concern. The Teamsters plan to rally Thursday at the Capitol to demand safer work conditions. They also want the right to call in an arbitrator to resolve bargaining disputes.

Union representative Michelle Woodrow says since August seven officers have been assaulted at three different Washington prisons.

“The assaults have been significant and severe in nature and I would say that the frequency has increased.”

Washington’s director of prisons responds that his agency has made “sweeping” changes to improve safety since Officer Biendl’s murder. Dan Pacholke says on any given day 1,000 Washington prison officers are now armed with pepper spray. And the agency is about to equip some frontline staff with body alarms as part of a pilot program.

In addition, outgoing Governor Chris Gregoire’s budget proposal calls for some additional staff in Washington prisons.

On the Web:

Interest Arbitration in Washington (Office of Financial Management)

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."