More funding for guards sought following prison uprising
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware’s governor said Monday that he wants to hire 75 prison guards next year following an inmate uprising and hostage-taking in which a correctional officer was killed.
Gov. John Carney issued a statement saying his fiscal 2018 budget proposal will include $2.3 million to hire 50 new guards at the maximum-security Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna and 25 new guards at the Baylor women’s prison in New Castle.
Carney also is proposing $1.2 million in new spending next year for equipment, and additional funding for training and recruitment.
In the meantime, officials are allocating about $341,000 for immediate equipment purchases and are planning to increase security sweeps at Vaughn.
Last month, inmates took four correctional workers hostage at Vaughn, setting off a nearly 20-hour standoff during which correctional officer Steven Floyd was killed. The siege ended when tactical teams used a backhoe to breach the building and rescue a female counselor. Two other prison guards were released earlier by inmates, but Floyd was found dead.
Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, has said that if there had been the proper amount of staffing at the Vaughn prison, inmates would not have been able to overpower correctional officers and take control of a building.
Klopp had no comment Monday on Carney’s proposal to hire more guards.
Since the uprising, 18 correctional officers have resigned and 18 others have submitted retirement paperwork.
The staff departures are in addition to 30 resignations reported by the prison’s health care contractor.
Meanwhile, authorities have yet to file any charges in connection with the uprising but have said all 120-odd inmates in the building at the time are considered suspects. The Delaware State Police and the state Attorney General’s office are leading the criminal investigation. The Delaware Department of Correction is also conducting an internal investigation.
Carney also has ordered an independent review led by retired Delaware Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely and retired Family Court Judge William Chapman, Jr. to look into the hostage incident and what can be done to prevent a similar situation in the future.
Carney had said the independent review would begin following the completion of the criminal investigation, and that Ridgely and Chapman would present a preliminary report by June 1 and final report by August 15.
Carney said Monday that, given the duration of the criminal investigation and his sense of urgency, the independent review would begin this week. The independent reviewers have contracted with the Police Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit to assist them, and will coordinate with the state police and the attorney general’s office to ensure they do not compromise the criminal investigation, according to Carney’s office.
Administration officials also are relaunching an email address, AskDOC@state.de.us, to improve communication between family members of inmates and Department of Correction personnel. Relatives of inmates have publicly released dozens of letters from their loved ones claiming that they and other inmates have been subject to repeated abuse by guards in the aftermath of the uprising.
A DOC spokeswoman said last week that prison officials have no information indicating that anyone has been beaten.