New Delaware Correctional Officers Optimistic Despite Vaughn Hos - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

New Delaware Correctional Officers Optimistic Despite Vaughn Hostage Situation

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DOVER, Del. -- James Bailey of New Castle said he's ready for his first shift as a correctional officer at the Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna.

"I've never thought I'd say this, but I'm excited to go to jail," he said.

Bailey was one of more than 20 people who graduated from the Department of Correction's training academy on Friday. He's among the 14 graduating officers who will work at Vaughn, the site of February's deadly hostage situation, in which a correctional officer died. The incident led to an independent review of the causes behind the hostage situation and authors of the initial findings, released last week, said the prison was mismanaged and drastically understaffed.

The graduating class included 19 new officers who will work with inmates, one food specialist, one mechanic, and five counselors.

The new job, Bailey said, is a source of concern and excitement for his family.

"It's got us a little on edge, but things are turning around and I think we can make a difference," he said.

Fellow graduate Cameron Jackson will be heading to work at Sussex County Violation and Probation. Like, Bailey he understands being a correctional officer can be a dangerous job.

"Somebody's gotta do it, so who better than me doing it myself?" he said, noting he has long had an interest in a career in law enforcement.

Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said he is concerned some of the newer officers are being assigned to Vaughn, noting the current condition of the prison could be dangerous for inexperienced officers. He said officers are still being drastically underpaid and need raises, otherwise understaffing issues will continue to operations difficult at Delaware prisons like Vaughn.

"Those are unrealistic expectations, to have a brand-new employee and throw them into a situation like the one that exists at James T. Vaughn and expect them to survive and function very well," he said.

However, instructors said they believe the recruits are ready. Lt. Matthew Hopp, the head instructor for the current class of graduates, said the officers' assignments are based on staffing levels.

"It's based on vacancies. They go wherever the bodies are needed and wherever they need some help," he said.

Bailey said he was looking forward to formal orientation at Vaughn.

"Hopefully, I learn everything I need," he said. "I just want to keep everyone safe and go home at the end of the day."

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