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Prison guards call for more safety measures

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by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Corrections workers picketed on Lincoln Street in Port Angeles last week, calling for safer working conditions after two recent attacks in Washington state prisons, including one that resulted in the death of Monroe prison guard Jaime Biendl.

 

Greg Bellamy, a correctional officer at Clallam Bay State Prison, said it’s time for the state to step up and spend some money making the prisons safer for the guards.

 

“We feel the state is obligated to provide a safe workplace for us,” he said.

 

Up to 23 prison guards and their supporters stood outside in the wind and rain March 2 as part of a statewide effort to bring attention to safety conditions. Pickets sponsored by Tukwila Teamsters 117 Union were held in Aberdeen, Airway Heights, Forks, Gig Harbor, Monroe, Pasco, Port Angeles, Shelton, Tumwater, Vancouver and Walla Walla.

 

Biendl was strangled by an inmate at a prison chapel on Jan. 29. She was alone on duty. The night before the pickets, a prison guard in Walla Walla was stabbed in the face with an ink pen by an inmate.

 

Bellamy, who helped organize the pickets, said the state needs to install more security cameras so guards could see if someone needed assistance and to purchase body alarms for guards to activate if they are attacked.

 

“Corrections officers don’t ask for much,” he said. “We top out at $21 an hour.”

 

Correctional Officer Mark Halverson said most of the violence at the Clallam Bay prison is gang-on-gang, but it is still enough that the prison recently was put on lockdown for two weeks.

 

Halverson’s sign called for “safety, dignity and respect.”

 

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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