Corrections Officer's Death at Washington Prison Leads to $26,000 Fine

Washington Department of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl was killed on Jan. 29, 2011, allegedly by Byron Scherf, an inmate at a Monroe, Wash., prison.

Lapses in training, existing policies that were not followed, and failing to have other necessary safety policies in place were among the problems the Washington Department of Labor & Industries uncovered in its six-month investigation into the death of Department of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Wash.

As a result of its investigation, L&I is citing DOC for two serious violations of state workplace safety rules and one repeat of a serious violation. The total proposed penalty is $26,000, nearly the maximum amount allowed under L&I's penalty structure.

"Corrections officers regularly work with a dangerous population, facing the risk with courage and dedication," said L&I Director Judy Schurke. "This is all the more reason that these workers must be given the tools to reduce the risks they face, including proper training and policies to help keep them safe."

L&I determined the workplace safety violations at the Monroe Correctional Complex resulted in several opportunities where prison staff could have responded to or noted Biendl's absence much sooner had DOC's existing policies been consistently followed or had certain policies been in place.

DOC has been cited for:

  • Failing to supervise and enforce training programs that were effective in practice, a repeat of a previous safety violation.
  • Failing to have an effective Accident Prevention Program by not enforcing several existing policies at the Monroe prison.
  • Failing to have policies or procedures tailored to the needs and hazards of the particular workplace, in that several policies that DOC should have had, according to industry standards, were not in place.

Biendl was killed on Jan. 29, 2011, allegedly by Byron Scherf, an inmate at the Monroe prison. While her death has been the subject of a criminal investigation, a review by the National Institute of Corrections, and an internal review by DOC, L&I's role is to determine whether any workplace safety rules were violated.

In Washington, state and local governments must meet the same workplace safety standards as private businesses. L&I is required to inspect state and local government worksites and investigate workplace deaths involving state and local government employees just as they do with private employers.

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