Delaware Prison Officials Say More Building Cameras Needed - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Prison Officials Say More Building Cameras Needed

Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps testified Monday at a state Senate Labor Committee hearing on the state's prison system. (Photo: Nick Layman/WBOC) Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps testified Monday at a state Senate Labor Committee hearing on the state's prison system. (Photo: Nick Layman/WBOC)

DOVER, Del.- The commissioner of Delaware's Department of Correction on Monday told state lawmakers state prisons need more building cameras and correctional officers need to be paid more.

Commissioner Perry Phelps told the state Senate Labor Committee that camera coverage could be improved in prisons, particularly at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, the site of an inmate riot and uprising on Feb. 1-2 that saw numerous staff members taken hostage and the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd.

"We do not have enough building cameras," said Phelps, a former correctional officer and longtime DOC employee who was sworn in to his current position on Feb. 1.

Phelps, who did not discuss the hostage situation during the hearing, said the department was expected to lose about 78 correctional officers in 2017, though the overall number of departures would certainly increase as a result of the Feb. 1 hostage situation.

Former Vaughn Warden David Pierce, who was reassigned following the hostage situation, said some recommendations following a 2005 hostage situation in which a counselor was raped were not enacted by the state.

Pierce said relatively low pay, forced overtime, and a lack of resources in some cases, makes it difficult to retain and recruit correctional officers, a situation he compared to the time following the 2005 incident.

"Just like today, it would do you no good to add 200 positions to the department of correction's budget if they can't hire for the vacant positions they have right now," he said.

In regards to salaries for correctional officers, Phelps said when staff members aren't valued they feel underappreciated. He said COs deserve to make a living wage.

"I don't know what the magic number is but I know it's not enough, what they receive now," he said.

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