At the Washington State’s Monroe Correctional Complex yesterday, pairs of corrections officers stood by the metal gate leading into the recreation yard, singling out inmates for random pat-downs, says the Seattle Times. Inmates stripped off their jackets and stood in the chilly November sunshine answering questions about what was in their pockets and their plans for the day. While some inmates appeared annoyed, others shrugged and said this was only one form of tightened security they’ve seen since Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl was killed this year.
In the weeks after Biendl’s death, allegedly at the hands of an inmate, prison staff across the state talked about the changes necessary to help them feel safer. Panic call buttons, pepper spray, and tracking devices were added to many officers’ tool belts, all changes supported by Gov. Chris Gregoire and the National Institute of Corrections. The greatest change has been in officers’ attitudes, longtime staffers said. “Staff were complacent,” said Lt. Jack Warner. “They had to look in the mirror.” The Times describes many changes, including that all inmate activities have been drastically reduced. Before Biendl’s killing, nearly 1,000 volunteers brought programs to inmates inside the prison complex; the number has been slashed in half.