Wash. Department Of Corrections Ordered To Reverse Firings After Officer's Death

Jul 9, 2013

Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl was murdered at Monroe Correctional Complex in 2011.
Credit Washington State Department of Corrections

An arbitrator has ordered the state Department of Corrections to reinstate three staff members who were fired after Officer Jayme Biendl was murdered at Monroe Correctional Complex two years ago.

Biendl was strangled inside the prison's chapel by inmate Byron Sherf, who was serving time for rape.

After the investigation, three corrections officers were fired. One was demoted. The DOC accused them of misconduct, dereliction of duty and intentionally misleading investigators.

The union filed a grievance on their behalf.

In his ruling the arbitrator agreed that some of the officers deserved to be reprimanded — but not fired.

The arbitrator ruled that the DOC must offer all four their old jobs back and pay them lost wages. Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracy Thompson said the arbitrator's ruling was a relief for the officers. “From the very beginning [the officers] thought it was just outrageous that the department was trying to scapegoat these line staff, so this is a real vindication for these folks,” Thompson said.

In his ruling, the arbitrator noted problems with management and institutional complacency inside the prison.

In a statement, a DOC spokesman said the department is reviewing the arbitrator’s decision and that it has already made changes since Biendl’s death.

The department could appeal.

Inmate Byron Sherf is now facing the death penalty for Biendl’s murder.