Monroe police said a verbal argument broke out between the two men just after 10 a.m. in the special offender unit.
The inmate, 33-year-old Jimi Hamilton, tackled and punched the officer while he was standing at his post, said Department of Corrections spokesperson Selena Davis.
The incident lasted 7 seconds before other officers arrived and detained Hamilton.
The officer sustained serious injuries, and was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett's Colby Campus.
"This officer was out there doing his job," said prison superintendent Robert Herzog. "We manage a difficult population. Sometimes bad things happen."
Hamilton is serving a 14-year sentence for two counts of robbery in Pierce County. He has a history of infractions within prison, including assaulting custodial staff.
The special offender unit, which houses 346 mentally-ill male offenders, was placed under restricted movement in the wake of the incident.
The prsion made headlines in January 2011 when another correctional officer was strangled by an inmate. Jayme Biendl was attacked and killed in the prison chapel, allegedly by inmate Byron Scherf
After Biendl's death, the prison adopted new safety measures to protect correctional officers on duty.