Nine Vaughn prison staff suspended during incident investigation



Several Department of Correction staff are on leave during an incident investigation.

Delaware’s Department of Correction has suspended several of its staff while it conducts an investigation to determine whether a violation of department policy or procedure recently took place at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

The potential violation in question surrounds 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.

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

In February, a 19-hour hostage incident at the prison led to the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd. His family and five other hostages filed a federal lawsuit against former Governors Ruth Ann Minner and Jack Markell, and other state officials, for alleged poor oversight of Delaware’s prisons.

Inmates had reported they were mistreated at the Smyrna prison.

A review of the prison reported forced overtime for correctional officers, inexperienced correctional officers assigned to high-risk areas, short-staffing and antiquated and inefficient technology.

The February incident was not the first for the prison. In 2004, a female counselor was held hostage and raped by one of the inmates. Just a month before the February siege, Benjamin Panella, who was serving a 25-year sentence for robbery, weapons charges and second degree murder, threw a cup of hot liquid on a correctional officer, and received a two-year sentence in July.

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