Delaware prison report delayed after influx of inmate testimonials

 (Licensed under Creative Commons)

(Licensed under Creative Commons)

A final report of what led to February’s fatal prison uprising at Vaughn Correctional Center was due on August 15, but that deadline has been moved to September 1.

Delaware Governor John Carney has extended the deadline for the independent review to allow the team to “fully consider an influx of testimonials from inmates and correctional officers,” according to a news release issued by the governor’s office. The review team will also be able to more closely examine a letter from the ACLU that documents inmate grievances.

“I look forward to receiving the final report of the independent review later this month,” Carney said in a statement. “I remain committed to making the necessary, long-term changes to help us improve conditions inside James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and across our correctional system.”

A preliminary report released by former Judge William Chapman and former U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly described a host of security and management problems that led to the prison uprising and ended in the death of correctional officer Lt. Stephen Floyd. That report found poor training, a lack of communication, inconsistent enforcement of prison rules, and gang members housed in the same cell as contributing factors to the riot.

The preliminary report didn’t go far enough in detailing problems in the prison for members of the Delaware Coalition of Prison Reform and Justice. After it was released, the group outlined a number of issues and concerns regarding the report.

“It does not mention the alleged misconduct or violations of human and civil rights by some of the correctional officers,” said Rev. Chris Bullock who leads the organization.

Low wages and poor training led correctional officers to be more focused on just surviving the day rather than consistently managing their duties, according to the preliminary report. In response to that aspect of the report, Carney announced a deal with the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware to increase starting salaries for officers by 22 percent by the start of Fiscal Year 2019. In June, an extra 50 correctional officers were added at Vaughn, and the General Assembly approved a plan for new equipment and training at Vaughn, including $2 million worth of new security cameras.

He also named Claire DeMatteis as his special assistant at the Delaware Dept. of Correction, giving her the role of reforming management practices and training at the prisons. She’s also working to do a “cultural turnaround” behind bars, according to a statement from Gov. Carney’s office.

Earlier this week, the Delaware Dept. of Justice announced an indictment related to the uprising could come within the next 90 days, the News Journal reported. Attorney General Matt Denn’s office said it hopes to present an indictment to a grand jury in the next three months.

Also earlier this week, nine DOC workers at Vaughn were suspended after a potential during the transport of an inmate from his housing unit to the infirmary for medical inspection on July 31st, according to spokeswoman Jayme Gravell. She said nine staff members were placed on administrative leave a day after the alleged incident occurred, but currently is unable to provide further details.

“DOC takes seriously any alleged incidents of misconduct, and reported incidents are thoroughly investigated,” Gravell said.

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