The senseless murder of dedicated corrections officer Jayme Biendl at the Monroe Correctional Complex last Saturday has sent shock waves through the state's prison system.
And well it should. Her tragic death must be investigated from all possible angles to ensure any potential lapses in the safety and security of corrections officers at Monroe or any other prison in the state are remedied.
Biendl, 34, the 2008 officer of the year at Monroe, was working alone in the prison chapel when she was strangled by an inmate.
The first question that needs answering is: Why was Biendl left to work alone in the chapel? She had expressed her concerns about working alone to her supervisors on numerous occasions. Here’s another disturbing revelation: She’d also complained that security cameras in the area didn’t work, according to an official with the corrections officers’ union.
Prison officials said they were unaware that Biendl had complained about video surveillance in the chapel.
Prison officials said security cameras in the chapel were working last weekend, but they don’t cover the main part of the chapel. How good is the chapel video surveillance system? In case there was any doubt, the question was answered Saturday night.
Another high priority is a thorough review of which prisoners should be allowed access to the chapel.
Current policy allows most inmates the right to visit the chapel. Inmates in segregation for bad behavior or those in the mental health unit with history of violence are exceptions to that rule.
The inmate suspected of the murder is 53-year-old Byron Scherf, an inmate with a record of repeated rape convictions. He is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He had been a high-security inmate when he returned into the state prison system in 1997, but had been upgraded to a medium-security prisoner in 2009 for good behavior.
While five corrections officers have been killed in the line of duty in this state, this was the first slaying of a corrections officer at Monroe.
An internal Department of Corrections review of security measures and procedures at the 2,400-inmate prison won’t be enough. All facets of the case must be reviewed by an independent party. Biendl deserves nothing less.