Correctional Officer Darrin Norton leads other officers during a demonstration for safer working conditions.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
WALLA WALLA, Wash. --
Correctional employees from across the state are picketing Wednesday for on-the-job safety changes a after a correctional officer was stabbed in the face by an inmate in Walla Walla on Tuesday night.
Teamsters Local 117's Tracy Thompson told KIRO 7 that the officer was working in the Adams Unit at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday when another correctional officer heard a call of the assault over the radio.
Thompson said the officer was found bleeding from stab wounds to the face as two inmates fought nearby.
The injured officer, who was stabbed with a ballpoint pen, was taken to a nearby hospital. He also suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Correctional employees began picketing Wednesday at 10 different locations, calling it a "fight for safety."
"We don't want to go ahead and see any more deaths, not by the hands of any inmate whatsoever," corrections Officer Susan Warner said at a picket line in Monroe.
About a dozen corrections officers were in Monroe before dawn on Wednesday, and were calling on the Department of Corrections to add staffing, better monitoring of prisons and prisoners, and body alarms for officers.
Teamsters Local 117 said Jayme Biendl, who was strangled inside the Monroe prison chapel in January, complained numerous times about safety issues inside the prison.
Corrections Sgt. Brad Waddell said a different type of alarm on Biendl would have given her a chance of surviving the attack.
"I would say she would have had a better chance to survive if she had a body alarm activation that would have went off when she went down or was easier to hit,” said Waddell. Officers want a body alarm "that you hit on your chest, and then it's activated, or if you go to the ground it's activated. We don't have that. We've got a button on the side of the radio that you can hardly get to if you're in a fight."
Correctional employees are demanding the Department of Corrections and the Washington State Legislature take immediate steps to improve staff safety.
On Wednesday morning outside the Monroe Correctional Center, some of the picket signs read "Scott must go,” referring to Scott Frakes, the prison’s superintendent.
“He needs to listen to the staff when the staff, with 15 to 20 years (experience), is telling him things that we really need. We don't need to put a dollar tag on it; we need to get the critical things that we need,” said Waddell.
Officers picketing in Monroe said they were aware of the state's budget issues, but that they want more money spent on safety necessities for officers and less spent on luxuries for prisoners.
"(We're not) against them, but we feel like they're against us," Warner said. "I guess we're not the right price tag for them. We're not worth going ahead and giving us what we need. It's not what we want; (it's what) we need."
KIRO 7 called the corrections department to ask them to comment on the picketers' demands, but the department hasn't called back yet.
Waddell said he expects 400 to 500 people to take part in the informational picket in Monroe.
The picketing across the state will last until 6 p.m.
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