One year later, officials remember correctional officer killed in Delaware prison riot

Delaware Gov. John Carney, center, participates in a memorial service for Lt. Steven Floyd. Floyd was killed in the February 2017 prison uprising at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. (John Jankowski/for WHYY)

Delaware Gov. John Carney, center, participates in a memorial service for Lt. Steven Floyd. Floyd was killed in the February 2017 prison uprising at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. (John Jankowski/for WHYY)

Officials gathered Sunday afternoon to remember Lt. Steven Floyd as a steady rain beat down on the grounds of Vaughn Correctional Center. The symbolism was not lost on Delaware Gov. John Carney.

“Let there be no doubt that there’s a higher power in charge today,” said Carney.

It’s been one year since Floyd was killed in a nearly 19-hour hostage standoff and prisoner riot at Vaughn, the Smyrna prison where Floyd spent his entire 16-year career with the state Department of Correction. On Sunday, Delaware officials gathered there to memorialize Floyd in a military-style ceremony complete with bagpipes and an honor guard. They also remembered him with a plaque and small memorial garden outside the prison.

Carney pledged to do better for Delaware’s prison guards and staff.

“I hope you know that we hear you, we’re with you, we have your back, and we’re doing what we can to support you,” he said.

Just 12 days before the prison uprising that left him dead, Floyd had warned officials about dangerous conditions when certain prisoners were allowed into the same area, and about understaffing.

An independent review last year found that addressing those concerns could have prevented the incident. While not specifically mentioning the report, state Prison Commissioner Perry Phelps said the department is committed to the safety of its officers.

“It is my hope that in the past 12 months that we have become a stronger, more unified agency, community, and state,” said Phelps. “And as we stand here as a reminder, a reminder that we should never stop striving to be better.”

Phelps said he first met Floyd in his capacity as a union representative, fighting for the rights of his fellow officers.

“He was an outspoken advocate for those who believed they’d been treated unfairly,” he said. “Steven didn’t care if his position was popular. He cared about giving people a voice, standing up for what’s right, and seeing things through until the end.”

The report recommended the prison system boost hiring and wages, and limiting mandatory overtime for correctional officers. The state has already taken steps to boost staffing levels and to keep certain inmates from mingling with others — a practice that contributed to the riot, according to the review

In December, the state Department of Correction agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by 11 people, including Floyd’s widow and children and six DOC staffers, alleging the state failed to properly fund and run its correctional facilities.

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