BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Seven months after a prison riot claimed the life of a corrections officer in Delaware, a study singles out blame.
Alex DeMetrick reports, it boils down to a state too slow to spend money for more staff.
For 18 hours in February, inmates blocked the doors in a unit of Delaware’s James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
It took a backhoe for police to break in and free staff that had been taken hostage, and remove the body of Sgt. Steven Floyd, who was murdered during the takeover.
While police escorted Floyd’s body away from the prison, the correctional officer’s union spoke out.
“We’ve been asking for help from the previous governor and we got none,” said Correctional Officers Association of Delaware president Geoff Klopp shortly after the uprising ended.
Jack Markell was the governor of the state from January 2009 to January of this year.
Klopp says Markell was asked for more correctional officers, and a just-released study of prison conditions backs up that need.
“Staffing absolutely has to be number one, and we’re working on that,” says current governor John Carney. “We’ve got a new contract with the hope of bringing a larger pool to the vacancies we have.”
The study finds chronic under-staffing of correctional officers, leading to forced overtime and double shifts, which in turn causes high turnover, and then poor training of replacement officers.
“You’re working in an environment where you have to be on your toes,” says former Delaware U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III. “You have to be observant and you can’t be tired, you can’t be angry, you can’t be frustrated. And we have had numerous guards tell us that is a serious source of frustration.”
Which the governor vows to address, before there’s another situation requires armed forces to bring it under control.
The study also finds that inmates need more opportunities to work and learn job skills inside Delaware’s prison.