Concerns About Overcrowding, Understaffing Linger After Vaughn I - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Concerns About Overcrowding, Understaffing Linger After Vaughn Incident

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The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (WBOC/Chopper 16) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (WBOC/Chopper 16)

KENT COUNTY, Del. -- Two weeks after a deadly hostage situation in the Vaughn Correctional Center, some people remain concerned about alleged issues like understaffing and packed prison cells.

Earlier this week, the Delaware Department of Correction said 16 correctional officers and a teacher at Vaughn announced their resignation or retirement or have have plans to leave in the coming months. The development comes two weeks after the death of Lieutenant Steven Floyd during a hostage situation this month in the prison's "C" building.

Additionally, an attorney for the union representing the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said inmates involved in the uprising had complied a "hit list" of 17 COs they told negotiators needed to be relocated, retired, or removed from Vaughn "or else."

Union President Geoff Klopp said officers had been working with management to make sure overtime shifts were filled to make sure there are no coverage gaps. He said high amounts of overtime and understaffing, two issues he has long alleged are affecting Delaware prisons, may be worsened because the number of officers leaving their jobs could potentially double or become even higher than where t it currently stands.
"We're just kind of digging in hard and hunkering down and trying to get through the immediate next few days," he said.

DoC officials have noted the department just welcomed a new class of officers and is expected a new round of incoming COs in March. Overtime figures and trends since the hostage situation were not immediately available on Thursday.

Jayme Gravell, a DoC spokeswoman, said Vaughn remains under a "modified lockdown" and Building C is vacant. She said inmates who were housed there and "the facility has made adjustments to the housing of inmates based on immediate security risks and concerns."

Linda Butcher, a Kent County woman who said she has sons in Vaughn and relatives who are currently correctional officers, said she is concerned about the situation in Vaughn and other Delaware prisons because she believes they are overcrowded, based on her own observations and descriptions from her sons.

A former inmate herself, Butcher said crowded cells can lead to increased tension among inmates and, coupled with correctional officers who may be fatigued from frequent overtime work, is not a good combination.

"When your awareness is low, they're not looking around to see who's into what," she said. "You're not aware."

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