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  • Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Gov. Gregoire urges legislators to act on prison safety enhancements

For Immediate Release: March 24, 2011

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today encouraged legislators to act on executive request legislation that will provide the Department of Corrections the support needed to implement a series of safety enhancements recommended by the National Institute of Corrections.

“The legacy of Officer Jayme Biendl should be enhanced safety for her co-workers at DOC,” Gregoire said. “These men and women have some of the most dangerous jobs in state government – and we owe it to them to do all we can to make sure they are safe in the workplace. This legislation ensures that the critical recommendations provided by the National Institute of Corrections move forward.”

Senate Bill 5907 was heard before the Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee this morning.

The legislation ensures DOC has the resources it needs to begin pilot programs for new body alarms and OC pepper spray. It allows DOC to take a closer look at the placement and use of video surveillance cameras. And it enhances the training prison workers receive. The legislation also calls for the development of multi-disciplinary teams at each facility to evaluate offenders’ placements in inmate job assignments and custody promotions.

Additionally, the legislation creates safety advisory groups composed of Corrections staff at each facility. These groups will evaluate and make safety recommendations for their facilities as well as send a representative to a statewide advisory group. The statewide group will address concerns both from the facilities as well as from the entire system, and will report back to the governor.

“Parts of this legislation will take time to fully implement,” Gregoire said. “While we want to implement these actions in a timely manner, we also want to implement them smartly. Some actions will be piloted to determine their effectiveness and others will require additional funding from our Legislature. I am working closely with our legislators to assure that they understand the need for these measures, even in tough economic times.”

Gregoire asked the NIC to conduct an outside investigation of the Monroe Correctional Complex following the murder of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl in January. Earlier this week, the NIC presented 15 recommendations to enhance safety at prisons statewide. DOC is moving forward to implement all 15 recommendations.