DoC: Reinstated Security Practices Turn Up Contraband - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DoC: Reinstated Security Practices Turn Up Contraband

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DOVER, Del.- Correctional officials say officers at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna confiscated contraband this week, though state officials and union leaders say a sophisticated shank was among the items collected and believe it demonstrates how understaffing made the facility less safe.

Jayme Gravell, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Correction, on Thursday confirmed illegal items had been found by correctional officers this week, but did not comment on which items were discovered.

"Through the reinstitution of security teams at JTVCC and proactive safety practices, contraband was discovered during a cell search earlier this week," she said.

However, Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, said security staff confiscated a shank with a handle and lanyard. He said he received a picture of the item that was taken from inside Vaughn.

"This is not going to wound anybody. This is going to kill," he said of the blade.

Although Smyk acknowledged contraband will get into prisons regardless of state funding levels, he said the items' purported appearance signaled how low staffing levels at Vaughn had hampered security.

"This is the direct result of a lack of funding and this (type of discovery) is going to be much more flagrant. I don't think that you're going to get that quality of shank, if we had great staffing," he said.

Bruce Rogers, an attorney representing the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said the alleged discovery showed exactly how much danger COs are in every day.

"The presence of this murder weapon proves one thing:  while political and government leaders argue over dollars, special commission reports, fiscal notes and kicking the can down the road, some inmates are steadily making weapons that have no purpose but to kill," he said.

Staffing levels and security at Vaughn have been a controversial and highly scrutinized topic since a deadly inmate riot on Feb. 1, in which correctional officer Steven Floyd was killed.

An initial report for an independent review of the Feb. 1 hostage situation said Vaughn was understaffed and correctional officers were overworked with forced overtime and stressed out. The final findings of that report are due in the coming weeks.

Since then, state leaders have pushed forward millions of dollars in funding and taken other steps aimed at improving safety conditions in the prison. 

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