New education building opens at Vaughn prison 3 years after deadly uprising

Delaware Governor John Carney shakes hands with Delaware Department of Corrections Warden Dana G. Metzger after a tour of the expanded maximum security education building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility in Smyrna, Delaware on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

Delaware Governor John Carney shakes hands with Delaware Department of Corrections Warden Dana G. Metzger after a tour of the expanded maximum security education building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility in Smyrna, Delaware on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

Three years after a deadly uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, state officials opened an expanded educational building in the maximum-security prison.

The building will provide new education, vocational training and programming opportunities for people incarcerated at Delaware’s largest prison.

Four of the five classrooms will provide mental health counseling for prisoners. Before the new building opened, only those in minimum- and medium-security facilities could access this service.

The new building is part of Gov. John Carney’s executive order to create programs to reduce recidivism rates in Delaware.

One of several new classrooms at the expanded maximum security education building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility in Smyrna, Delaware on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

The governor said Wednesday during a tour of the facility that the state has implemented recommendations from a 2017 independent report outlining key issues in the prison surrounding safety, health and other services. Carney commissioned the report following a prison riot that led to the death of correctional officer Lt. Stephen Floyd.

“The death of Lt. Floyd was a terrible thing to go through, but it has become the motivation for me to do all the things we need to do here at the Department of Correction, so it never happens again, and put the safety and security of our correctional officers and all the men and women in the Department of Correction first and foremost, to make sure they have all the technology and facilities and resources they need to do their job,” he said.

The independent review found prisoners did not have sufficient educational, vocational and substance use programs.

“Due to the overcrowded prison, inmates are on waiting lists to participate in programs, even programs that are court ordered,” the report read. “Inmates are also concerned about the lack of job opportunities.”

Carney said the state has implemented all 50 recommendations of the independent report, and while it did not specifically recommend an expanded building, it did call for improved educational opportunities.

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