CO Says Vaughn Hostage Situation Did Not Have to Happen - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

CO Says Vaughn Hostage Situation Did Not Have to Happen

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The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (Photo: WBOC) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. -- A correctional officer who works at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center said on Wednesday he believes there have been longstanding issues that have gone unaddressed by the Department of Correction and likely contributed to an inmate uprising, in which a correctional officer died.

The officer, who spoke with WBOC under the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for speaking about the topic, said understaffing has long been a problem at the prison and led to overworked and stressed COs. He said that issue, coupled with the implementation of a settlement on mental health and treatment of inmates, created an unsafe environment for staff members.

"At this point, I don't think [The Department of Correction] cared. They rolled the dice and they lost," he said.

The officer said it was only a matter of time before something like the hostage situation on Feb. 1 occurred. Inmates seized control of the C Building at Vaughn and took four hostages. One of the captives, correctional officer Steven Floyd, was found dead after law enforcement stormed the building the next day.

The hostage situation remains under investigation by Delaware State Police and a separate probe is being conducted by the Department of Correction. Law enforcement officials have said the 120 inmates contained in Building C are considered possible suspects.

Additionally, a separate probe on the hostage situation and its causes will be conducted by two retired judges following the criminal investigation.

The officer who spoke with WBOC about conditions at Vaughn said understaffing became even more of a problem following changes to housing for inmates made in the prison following an agreement with the Delaware Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. The deal followed a federal lawsuit, which involved the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and focused on confinement for the mentally ill and solitary confinement.

"We weren't ready for it," the officer said.

Numerous COs testified last week during a state Senate committee hearing about working conditions in Delaware prisons. They said the agreement had led to a situation where inmates were emboldened and felt like they did not need to obey officers.

The officer who spoke with WBOC said COs need better training, more support from management and correction officials, and higher staffing levels could help prevent a dangerous situation. Though he expects some changes to occur as a response to the hostage situation, he remained skeptical some state leaders would be willing to enact larger ones.

"You can't sit at home and pretend this didn't happen," he said.

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