Lawmakers seek investigation of Delaware prisons

    Allegations of abuse in Delaware’s correction institutions by state correction guards has come to the attention of two state legislators. They are asking something be done.

    Two Delaware lawmakers are calling for an investigation into allegations of inmate abuse in the state’s prisons.

    Senator Bruce Ennis, (D) Smyrna, who chairs the Senate’s Adult and Juvenile Corrections Committee, has announced he intends to hold joint hearings with the House Corrections Committee.

    Ennis says his decision was based on alleged problems revealed by the Caesar Rodney Institute’s special investigative report “Rogue Force.”

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    According to its website, the Caesar Rodney Institute is a non-partisan research and educational organization dedicated to open government, fiscal accountability and personal responsibility.

    The Institute’s special report outlines the actions of guards at the Sussex Correctional Institution who are physically abusing inmates in their care.

    “The allegations are disturbing and certainly demand some type of investigation,” Ennis said. “The majority of correction officers are dedicated, hard-working people, who work in a stressful environment, but these allegations certainly need to be investigated.”

    His announcement came after Sen. Colin Bonini, (R) Dover South, sent a letter to state officials calling for a special prosecutor, the empanelling of an investigative grand jury, investigations, audits and new legislation.

    Listen to Sen. Colin Bonini, (R) Dover South, talk about allegations of inmate abuse in the state’s prisons:
    [audio: /delaware/090826bcbonini.mp3]

    “Having read the special report filed by investigative reporter Lee Williams and knowing Mr. Williams as I do to be a careful, thorough and responsible reporter, I must assume that the facts and circumstances set forth in the CRI report are both true and accurate,” Bonini said. “Therefore, I am left with the obvious conclusion that Delaware has a significant problem with its Department of Corrections.”

    The report examines alleged physical abuse by guards at SCI and its consequences.

    It includes the investigation of inmate Benjamin Sudler, who allegedly had both legs amputated due to diabetes that went unchecked, and David Sully, who says guards at SCI nearly beat him to death in June.

    “When a society assumes responsibility for the rehabilitation and/or incarceration of an individual, it also assumes responsibility for that person’s safety and humane treatment while in state custody,” Bonini said.

    Ennis said he hopes to coordinate the joint hearings for September or October.

    In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Correction says they are prohibited by federal medical privacy law from discussing specific cases, but that they take allegations of abuse seriously and regularly investigate them.

    “When our investigation is complete, we will take appropriate action based upon the conclusions reached,” the statement reads. “In addition, we will turn the investigation over to the Attorney General for review.”  

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