Frustration Grows Among Correctional Officers, Inmates' Families - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Frustration Grows Among Correctional Officers, Inmates' Families Following Vaughn Incident

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

DOVER, Del. -- More than two months after a hostage situation in a Delaware prison near Smyrna in which a correctional officer died, many correctional officers and people related to inmates said they are frustrated with what they believe to be a slow response by the state following the incident.

The growing frustration was reportedly seen in Delaware prisons this week, where some officers reportedly participated in a coordinated "sick out" or "blue flu."

Although a Delaware Department of Correction spokeswoman said the "vast majority" of correctional officers attended work on Monday, sources familiar with the decision by many COs to participate in a "sick out" told WBOC dozens of COs called out in the past week to call attention to issues like pay, mandatory overtime, and staffing levels.

Friction from officers over the issues has been aggravated following the Feb. 1 hostage situation and death of Lt. Steven Floyd. Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, has said he believes the problems identified by the union were contributing factors to the 18-hour standoff at Vaughn.

The incident is the subject of a criminal investigation by Delaware State Police and a separate probe by the correction department. Two retired judges have also been tapped by Gov. John Carney (D) to conduct an independent review of the causes behind the hostage situation.

Carney said in February the criminal probe would follow DSP's investigation. Delaware State Police have not announced any charges in Floyd's death or the hostage situation.

But, like many correctional officers, some relatives of inmates at prisons like the Vaughn Correctional Center, said state leaders have known about issues regarding staffing for more than a decade, pointing to a pair of reports after a counselor was taken hostage and raped by an inmate at Vaughn in 2004.

Linda Butcher of Kent County, who said she has relatives who are currently and have previously been inmates and correctional officers, believes the an independent review won't turn up anything state officials don't already know.

"They know the understaffing. They know that it's a security risk. They know the cameras are not put in Vaughn. They've known this for years," she said.

A similar argument was made earlier in the week by Attorney Thomas Neuberger, who is part of a team of lawyers representing the Floyd family and other correctional staff members in a federal lawsuit over the hostage situation, said during a news conference on Tuesday he had "no faith" in the independent review.

WBOC was unable to reach a Carney spokesman Friday afternoon, seeking comment on the criticisms surrounding the independent review.

However, Carney officials have pointed to allocating more than $300,000 for new security features at Delaware prisons, including cameras and radios. The governor's budget plan for the next fiscal year also calls for hiring 75 new officers at Vaughn and the Baylor Women's Correctional Institution.

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