Prison superintendent talks safety after guard beating - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Prison superintendent talks safety after guard beating

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Brandi Gilland Brandi Gilland
Gilland after the alleged attack. Gilland after the alleged attack.

Sandra Chapman/Eyewitness News

Pendleton - As prison workers clamor for more help after a guard in Pendleton was beaten on the job, the prison's superintendent is talking about safety inside the prison's walls.

New pictures showed the injuries 30-year-old guard Brandi Gilland suffered when she was beaten on the job at the maximum security prison in Pendleton.

An industrial horn signals a day's work done for inmates inside the prison. But watching over Indiana's worst offenders, is a job that's never done and downright dangerous.

Gilland has the black eye and split lip to prove it.

"I wish I could say that it's never going to happen, but just by where we work, there's always that possibility," said Pendleton Superintendent Brett Mize, speaking of the potential for violence against prison guards.

Gilland was alone and checking individual cells Sunday, December 17, when prison authorities say inmate Rico Comer attacked her. Gilland had seized an unauthorized MP3 player from Comer weeks ago, causing him to lose visiting privileges.

"He took revenge on her for that conduct report," Mize told Eyewitness News. "When the incident happened, Officer Gilland handled the situation on her own, when she pulled out her chemical agent, used appropriate force and the situation was taken care of before staff got there to assist."

But she and other guards now say new prison policy that requires them to check individual cells alone puts them at risk.

In an email to 13 Investigates, one guard wrote, "Administration was warned repeatedly by C/O's that this would get an officer killed."
    
The superintendent says there have been a total of three guard assaults since April in the Disciplinary Segregation Unit.

"That's the worst of worst offenders inside this maximum security prison," Mize added.

A total of 20 officers were assaulted the entire year, compared to 82 in 2007.

But that is of little comfort to Officer Gilland, who said Department of Correction policies are limiting what she can say about the ordeal.
  
"I'm sorry, I can't talk right now about any incident that happened at the prison," said the guard, who still has bruises under her left eye. 

The superintendent, who took over in April, denies the attack on Gilland was the result of weak security.

"I think the number of assaults that decreased from last year to this year speaks for itself," said Mize. "So again, I think we have a good handle on what we're trying to do here with security procedures and everything we've implemented is working."
 
Facility numbers show there were ten fewer correction officers this year compared to 2007. The superintendent plans to hire 11 guards by mid-January. He also believes increasing job responsibilities for inmates and making it easier for them to get into G.E.D. programs will make a difference in keeping assaults at bay.

It's unclear if Gilland will return to work on Tuesday as scheduled.  She has been reassigned to a non-inmate unit for now and indicated days ago that she is seeking possible lawsuit against the state.

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