Correctional Officers Speak Out on Delaware Prison Conditions - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Correctional Officers Speak Out on Delaware Prison Conditions

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DOVER, Del. -- Correctional officers said on Thursday told state lawmakers they are dealing with dangerous conditions in Delaware prisons due to issues like understaffing, training deficiencies, and difficulties managing prisoners and procedures when they are greatly outnumbered.

Officers spoke during a hearing held by the Senate Labor Committee and three weeks after a hostage situation at the Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, in which correctional officer Steven Floyd died.

Much of the meeting was focused on conditions inside prisons, with officers saying they are at higher risk because because of chronic issues like staffing shortages that require increased overtime coverage, in turn leading to greater fatigue and stress on a workforce that already suffers from low morale and experience high turnover.

"We've been screaming for a long time. No one's been listening," said Aaron Forkum, a correctional officer who spoke during the proceedings.

Officers said their numbers are too light to be able to safely manage inmates and maintain compliance an settlement agreement to deal with a federal lawsuit that targeted mental health and treatment of inmates.

Additionally, Jeffrey Peppers, an officer who spoke at the meeting, complained of inadequate camera coverage at Vaughn. Correction officials have declined to comment on camera placement, saying it is part of internal operations.

"We have no cameras in the compound where the incident took place in C building, D building, S building, W building, Victor building...there's no cameras," he said.

Forkum said the effects of the federal lawsuit, which involved the Community Legal Aid Society of Delaware and the ACLU of Delaware and resulted in more unstructured recreation time available to inmates in certain maximum security settings and established new limits on how long inmates spend in disciplinary housing, had caused major problems with safely managing the inmate population at Delaware prisons.

"What we have right now is not a prison, he said. "It's a three-ring circus."

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