More than a month after a deadly siege at Delaware’s Vaughn Correctional Center, Delaware Gov. John Carney has announced his plans for improving safety at the prison in Smyrna.
Carney isn’t waiting for the end of the State Police investigation. He’s not waiting for the independent review of the situation he ordered. On Monday, Carney unveiled a series of moves he plans to improve safety and security at the Vaughn Correctional Center.
Among those initial steps, Carney wants to spend $340,800 to buy new security and communication equipment to help correctional officers respond to violent incidents at Vaughn and other Delaware prisons. He also wants to increase the presence of special security teams and increase the frequency with which they perform random sweeps at Vaughn.
“It’s our responsibility to do whatever is in our power to make the environment at Vaughn safer for correctional officers and inmates,” Carney said in a statement. “Prisons are inherently dangerous places. But everyone inside that prison, and their loved ones, deserves to know that their government takes their safety seriously, and that we’re doing what we can right now to right the ship at Vaughn.”
Carney’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 will include funds to hire 50 additional correctional officers at Vaughn and another 25 at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. Those new employees would cost the state $2.3 million. Carney is expected to deliver his proposal to state lawmakers on March 23. The state will also look into possibly increasing the starting salary for correctional officers through collective bargaining in the spring.
“While today’s announcement represents a positive step, we also must commit to looking at the whole issue and take action to rectify it,” said State Rep. J.J. Johnson, who chairs the House Corrections Committee. “We cannot go halfway, and we cannot look at only one aspect.”
Republican Rep. Deborah Hudson said quick action must be taken to restore the confidence of correctional employees. “I am hopeful that these measures will send an important message that we support their work,” Hudson said.
Carney is also relaunching an email address to improve communication between family members of inmates and the Department of Correction. The email address, AskDOC@state.de.us, can be used by family members to send questions or concerns to DOC personnel.