Prison reform advocates call for transparency in Vaughn hostage case [video]

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

The hostage death at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center is bringing community leaders together to stand up for the safety of prison guards and inmates as well.

On Tuesday, Chris Bullock of the Delaware Coalition of Prison Reform and Justice, an organization known for advocating for fairness and justice in the prison system announced that he’s calling for an independent federal investigation after last week’s incident.

“These men and women go to work not knowing if they are going to come home to their families every day. We need to value what they bring as professionals,” Bullock said.

According to the coalition,  Delaware has struggled with chronic under staffing issues for years. In addition to demanding transparency, officials will also request more funding for training and an adjustment to the salaries of guards.

On February 1st, four employees were taken hostage by inmates in a section of the Smryna institution. One guard identified as Steven Floyd did not make it out alive. All of the inmates are said to be suspects in the case that stems from alleged inhumane prison conditions.

Bullock said while some people need to be incarcerated due to the “horrendous nature” of their crimes others deserve much more such as treatment for an addiction.

“We do not want them to come out as better prisoners but better people, and the department must make up its mind. Either it’s going to be the Department of Correction or the Department of Punishment,” Bullock said.

New Castle Councilman Jae Street and Richard Smith, former NAACP president echoed similar messages. In fact, Smith said he’s been concerned about the relationship between guards and inmates for years.

To get others engaged, Smith also said there will be a series of public hearings held in all three counties regarding prison safety and conditions. The first meeting is scheduled for March 20th at Canaan Baptist Church in New Castle.

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