Delaware Center for Justice releases recommendations to improve corrections safety

The Delaware Center for Justice has released recommendations to increase safety in the state’s correctional facilities and surrounding communities.

The announcement comes more than a month after a hostage incident at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna that led to the death of Lt. Steven Floyd.

Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, has since launched an independent review of the incident to follow a criminal investigation and a Department of Correction interview affairs review.

The DCJ said it formulated the recommendations after meeting with several stakeholders.

“The Delaware Center for Justice urges the State to think critically about what research and best practices inform us in regards to safe communities and safe correctional facilities. We must respond to recent tragedies thoughtfully in order to ensure that all of those working for, and served by, the criminal justice system are treated fairly and humanely,” the DCJ stated in the document.

“There are no simple solutions, and our path forward must be nuanced and avoid finger-pointing and short-sighted vision. No single person, agency, or decision is to blame for this tragedy. We stand with those in the state who have worked tirelessly to enhance access to treatment, to improve conditions, and to develop evidence-based programming.

The DCJ recommends reducing Delaware’s prison population to address over-capacity as overpopulation comprises staff safety and prison conditions, the Center said. 

The DCJ also recommends enhancing the Department of Correction’s grievance process, so inmates’ concerns are heard.

Finally, the Center recommends enhancing programming in facilities that help inmates return to society rehabilitated and with the skills necessary to achieve quality of life.

For each recommendation the DCJ provides detailed suggestions on achieving each goal, including reducing the pretrial population and mandatory minimum sentence schemes, investing in adequate healthcare, a more streamlined and transparent communications process within facilities and updating volunteer and educational opportunities for inmates.

“…the events of February 1st and February 2nd should spur all of us to work harder to transform these ideas into real, substantive change,” the DCJ said in its document. “It should not require a tragedy to fight for safer correctional facilities and communities, but since one has occurred, there is no better time than the present to act.”

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