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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Assaulted On The Job, Prison Staff Want Time Limit On Benefits Lifted

Rennett Stowe
Flickr -

Working in a prison is a dangerous job. Inmates outnumber officers and fights are common. Fourteen-year veteran correctional officer Patrick McPherson said over the course of his career he’s been assaulted four or five times.

“I’ve had my AC joint torn in my shoulder where I was out for six months,” McPherson said.

More recently he smashed his elbow on the concrete and had to have surgery. Injured workers in Washington can receive up to 75 percent of their pay through the state’s industrial insurance program. And Washington has a program that awards prison staff their full salary if they miss work because of an inmate assault. However, that benefit runs out after a year.

A bipartisan proposal in the legislature would lift that cap. McPherson said a colleague of his lost two years of work after ripping his pectoral muscle breaking up an inmate fight.

“A lot of us do work paycheck to paycheck like everybody else,” McPherson said. “When you have your mortgage, a car payment, you got kids in college, any little bit of money it always helps.”

The union representing prison workers said an extended benefit would have helped 10 to 15 of its members over the past two to three years.

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."