Delaware Signs Agreement on Prisons - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Signs Agreement on Prisons


DOVER (AP)- Delaware Correction Commissioner Stan Taylor and Attorney General Carl Danberg signed an 87-point agreement with the federal government that orders the state to completely renovate its prison health care system.

The state promised to fix problems and "meet generally accepted professional standards," but the state did not admit to violating any inmate's civil rights or breaking any other federal law.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that federal investigators found "substantial civil rights violations" inside four Delaware prisons after a nine-month investigation.

Taylor has served the past 11 years as commissioner. He announced in early December that he will retire on Feb. 1. On Saturday, a prison spokeswoman announced that Paul Howard, Taylor's longtime bureau chief of prisons, is retiring the same day.

Prison spokeswoman Gail Minor Stallings said Howard's departure had nothing to do with the federal report.

Trial lawyers say the federal findings will serve as a roadmap for inmate lawsuits against the state.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Copeland, R-West Farms, said Saturday the federal government might have taken a "wait and see" approach, if the state had reacted once concerns about inmate care were first raised by The (Wilmington) News Journal, and by the citizen coalition he co-founded.

"If there had been a positive response from the state, the feds might have not felt the need to be the hammer," said Copeland, who estimates that changes ordered by the Justice Department will cost $20 million to $30 million more than the state already spends annually on prisons.

House Majority Leader Wayne Smith, R-Clair Manor, said he was disturbed about the agreement being signed in secret.

"I am troubled that we (lawmakers) were not consulted about something this important. By signing this, the governor and the attorney general have obligated the state to spending money without the General Assembly's consent - and I think we should have learned about this from them, rather than from a reporter."

Federal prison regulators identified a variety of problems, including inadequate screening and health assessments, inadequate treatment of inmates with infectious diseases, inadequate treatment of inmates with serious mental illness, and deficiencies in the state's suicide-prevention measures.

They found substantial civil rights violations at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution, Young Correctional Institution, the Delaware Correctional Center and the Sussex Correctional Institution.


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