Delaware Correctional Officer Punched in Face - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Correctional Officer Punched in Face

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The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna is shown Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: WBOC) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna is shown Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. -- A Delaware correctional officer was punched in the face by an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center on Tuesday, less than a week after a deadly hostage situation that saw the death of a correctional officer at the same facility.

The Delaware Department of Correction said on Wednesday that a pre-trial detainee struck an officer in the face on Tuesday, though further details were not provided in a brief statement about the matter.

"The incident is being investigated," said Jayme Gravell, a department spokeswoman.

However, the Correction Officers Association of Delaware said the incident resulted in cuts and bruising to an officer and that threats were leveled at officers by inmates.

COAD said in a release that "One inmate in particular was unruly and reportedly shouting again and again that he was going to kill all of the Officers.  When ordered into his cell, the inmate threw his belongings into the cell and said, "I'm taking one of you with me."  The inmate then braced his arms against the door to prevent from being secured."

According to the release, one officer was then punched in the face and a struggle continued until additional support arrived. The union said the other officers were not injured.

The incident occurred nearly a week after the death of Lt. Steven Floyd, a correctional officer who was found unresponsive and pronounced dead after last week's hostage situation at the Vaughn prison that saw three other staff members held captive by inmates.

COAD President Geoff Klopp, quoted in the release, was critical of an agreement on restrictive housing and mental healthcare between the state, American Civil Liberties Union, and Community Legal Aid Society, Inc, saying it had weakened officers ability to manage inmates. 

"Repeated incidents where an Officer directs an inmate to do something only to have mental health advocates instruct the inmate not to comply occur all too often," he said.

However, the release drew a joint response from the Delaware chapters of the ACLU and CLASI, which rebuked Klopp's association of attacks on staff members with the agreement.

"It is utterly untrue and irresponsible for COAD to say that the settlement agreement turned control of our prison facilities over to inmates," said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware.

Additionally, DoC Commissioner Perry Phelps said in a statement that the person who threw the punch did not request mental health services or had been seen by a contractor providing them. Additionally, he said the inmate was not on the mental health roster at Vaughn.

"There is no evidence to validate the claims that mental health staff interfered and instructed the offenders not to comply with DOC officials," he said. "We’re confident Governor Carney’s independent investigation will identify any areas of concern with policies or procedures surrounding security operations and mental health relationships.”

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