Carney Unveils Prison Plan Following Vaughn Report - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Carney Unveils Prison Plan Following Vaughn Report

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DOVER, Del. -- Gov. John Carney says he wants a special assistant to oversee efforts to reform the Delaware Department of Correction as part of an effort to correct longstanding issues in the government agency following a February hostage situation in which a correctional officer died.

Carney on Tuesday announced his intention to appoint an outsider to that role as part of his response to the initial findings from an independent review of the hostage situation at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Authors of the report said the Delaware's only maximum-security prison is dangerously overcrowded, critically understaffed, and poorly run and managed.

"The goal in all this, is frankly to change the culture there at James T. Vaughn and through the system," he said.

Additionally, Carney said ongoing collective bargaining with the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware should be aimed at raising base salaries and reducing mandatory overtime, an issue he said has dealt a serious blow to morale and made it extremely difficult to retain officers.

"You've got 100 vacancies right now. You could add a 100 more [correctional officers] but if you're not filling the 100 you've got, it doesn't matter, right? You're not getting a new body."

Carney also wants to spend $2 million on new cameras at Vaughn, devices the report authors identified as a possible deterrent to inmates who may want to harm inmates or correctional officers. 

COAD President Geoff Klopp said he supports the changes proposed by Carney and blamed the Markell and Minner administrations for understaffing he associates as being a cause of the Vaughn riot.

Now, Klopp said, legislators have to act.

"The fact that we have been balancing budgets on cuts for the last eight years. You can't continue to go down that road and run good government," he said.

Although Carney acknowledged many policy changes would not cost the state additional money, he said the camera proposal and negotiations with COAD will come with a price tag of millions of dollars and add to the difficulty of balancing a roughly $382 million budget deficit.

House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) is optimistic solutions can be funded, despite massive cuts to state agencies' budgets made in recent weeks. 

"It's going to be tough because it involves money but it's already proposed in the budget," he said. "We just have to find the revenue to make sure it happens."

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