SMYRNA, Del. (CBS) — A final report ordered by Delaware Governor John Carney and released Friday found that despite warnings about a possible prison protest at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, superiors took no action. Now, the Department of Corrections is working to make what officials call “overdue changes.”
According to that report, a critically understaffed” prison along with low morale, hostile management, and distrust between officers and inmates led to the violent prison standoff February 1st, when a group of inmates from the C-Building took control of the prison and took hostages for more than 20 hours.
Sgt. Steven Floyd, who had previously raised concerns to superiors about the rising tensions and conditions in the prison, was killed in the riot, and two officers were injured.
“A lot of the things have to do with leadership, communications and culture,” Governor Carney said in a Friday press conference.
Carney says the report revealed major shortfalls in the system, from mandatory overtime resulting in fatigued and disgruntled employees to lack of adequate technology.
“The idea that in an incident like that, we didn’t have cameras inside to see what was going on is just an unacceptable situation,” he said.
The Governor’s Office says on the day of the riot, the facility was fully staffed for the shift with 289 correctional officers. In all, the prison employs 711 correctional officers, one warden, two deputy wardens, and two majors, who cover three shifts, according to a spokesman.
Currently, there are 270 vacant positions systemwide, the Governor says. Amid the rapid turnover, he included $16 million dollars in the fiscal year budget to increase salaries for corrections officers and also included funds to hire 50 more.
Some officers regularly reported clocking 80 hours of overtime in a two-week pay period on top of the standard 80 hours.
A recently developed Labor Management Committee will address shift schedules and overtime issues.
While the Department of Corrections is making changes such as installing cameras and increasing officer salaries, Former U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly, who helped compile the report, says still, no prison will be immune from such a tragedy.
“Incidents can occur no matter what the state does, because prisons are dangerous places,” Oberly said.
The report also details the alleged mistreatment of inmates, such as masked, unidentifiable officers “shaking down” cells for contraband and destroying personal property such as photos and toiletries in an apparent effort to intimidate inmates.
The report suggests the DOC require the Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) officers to wear a name tag or numbered helmet to be easily identified.
“When inmates are not treated in a humane way; resentment builds, and it creates tensions between correction officers, which makes conditions less safe,” said Carney. “It’s ultimately everyone’s best interest for treatment to be humane and fair, while recognizing these individuals are being punished for crimes that were committed.”
While the Independent Review report is complete, both the criminal and internal affairs investigations continue.