Delaware Correctional Officers and Inmates Contribute to Delaware’s COVID-19 Response

SMYRNA, Del. – This week, three dozen inmates who are employed in the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center garment shop began producing cotton face masks for the correctional system and first responders as the Delaware Department of Correction steps up to support the First State’s COVID-19 response.

These skilled inmate workers normally cut and sew material from large rolls of red and white cotton cloth into the clothing worn by more than 4,200 inmates across DOC’s prison facilities. However, As Delaware confronts the challenges of community spread of the illness, the inmates and their Correctional Officer supervisors in Delaware Correctional Industries offered to turn their sewing skills into producing face masks in short supply. 

Governor John Carney said, “As this serious situation evolves, we need to find innovative solutions for pressing issues. That is exactly what the Department of Correction has done by shifting the production within the James T. Vaughn Correction Center to provide greater protection to staff and inmates in DOC facilities. We’ll get through this, but we all need to pitch in and take this threat seriously.”

Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said, “We say often that ‘we are all in this together,’ and this initiative by correctional officers and offenders demonstrates that we all want to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s a real-time, real-life demonstration of DOC’s dual mission of public safety and offender rehabilitation.”

The mask production effort was originally presented to the DOC by Delaware Correctional Industries Trades Instructor Dion Hawkins, who worked collaboratively with Trades Instructors Lori Quinney Craig Devries, Lee Lepore, Frank Kulhanek and Brett Smith and their team of inmate workers to design and produce a prototype mask last week using two layers of cotton cloth in stock, sewn together around a polyester filter designed to remove particles down to 3-10 microns in size.  

Production began Monday on two sewing machines, and by mid-week daily volume increased to nearly 100 face masks.  Up to a dozen inmates will support the operation by cutting patterns and sorting and packing masks, while up to two dozen inmates will operate sewing machines to stitch the materials and add elastic ear loops.  At full production capacity, DOC estimates that it will be able to produce up to 500 face masks each week.

Face masks produced at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center will be used, as necessary, in DOC facilities to protect staff, inmates and contractors. Once inventory increases, the face masks will be offered to other first responders.  DOC’s infirmaries and isolation units will continue to use medical grade FDA-certified face masks and other Personal Protective Equipment produced by national manufacturers.

Hourly wages for inmate workers are set by state statute and hourly pay rates for inmates employed in the garment shop at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center range between .25 and $2.00 per hour depending on skill level and length of service.

Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, or 711 for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.  

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.  

 

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Marking Delaware’s Progress Improving Reentry Services

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Monday joined state leaders at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington to review progress on improving reentry services for offenders and to announce more than $1 million in grants to support Delaware’s reentry initiatives. These reentry investments – a key component of Governor Carney’s efforts to reduce Delaware’s recidivism rate – are driven by Executive Order 27, which aims to reduce recidivism through more effective coordination of housing, healthcare and counseling services, expanding access to education and vocational training, and meaningful data sharing among agencies to help offenders. The Governor’s Executive Order created the Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission to partner with the Department of Correction and bring together other agencies to drive reentry reforms that support justice-involved men and women with the tools they need to succeed.

“Thanks to the hard work of the Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission, the Department of Correction, and agencies across state government who have come together over the past year to improve how we help offenders reenter society and become productive members of our communities,” said Governor Carney. “I am encouraged by our efforts to provide treatment and training to offenders while they are incarcerated, as well as provide crucial support during those initial days and months after their release from prison to increase the chances of long-term success in our communities. That’s good for them and their families, and it’s good for public safety across our state.”

Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said, “Delaware’s reentry effort has focused over the past year on better identifying offenders’ treatment and training needs within the first 45 days of incarceration and working to meet those needs while they are incarcerated. Upon release, we are taking more active steps to put offenders in contact with existing social services, housing, healthcare and counseling services as they return to the community.”

Delaware Secretary of Health and Social Services, Dr. Kara Odom Walker said, “Experience demonstrates that a community support system that provides access to basics like stable housing, healthcare, continued treatment for opioid addiction, food, career counseling and job search assistance improves their chances to stay on the right track and out of the criminal justice system.”

“This is not the development of some new program. Today we are fundamentally changing the incarceration system in Delaware by making a prisoner’s preparation to thrive in their community and the economy a true priority. To use a sports analogy, we are focused on establishing a ‘sound handoff’ through better collaboration between government agencies, community groups, and employers. Ensuring that social services, education, employment, and housing barriers are addressed improves outcomes, creating a better quality of life for the men and women who are re-entering society and safer communities for every Delawarean,” said Delaware Department of Labor Secretary Cerron Cade.

Last year the Delaware Department of Education’s Prison Education Program provided instruction to 1,030 students in academics, 484 in life skills classes and 1,426 in vocational trainings.

“Prison education is an essential component for the successful reintegration of those exiting prison into their communities. Recent research found that correctional education results in lower risks of recidivism and higher rates of employment,” said Director of Adult and Prison Education Maureen Whelan, noting educational services were expanded to areas previously inaccessible through DOC/DOE collaboration. “The Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission will support further interagency collaboration enabling those leaving prison to become valued employees and positive role models for their children and those in their communities.  Prison education joins in the DCRC project so that ex-offenders have a second chance to create a new lasting impression of their worth that will affect themselves, their families, and their communities for generations to come.”

Officials from the Departments of Correction, Education, Health and Social Services, Labor, Delaware State Housing Authority, and the Criminal Justice Council have worked to implement half of 19 assignments outlined in Executive Order 27 while making substantial progress on the remaining objectives. Completed objectives include:

  • The Department of Correction has restructured an office whose responsibility is the coordination of reentry services; this office is tasked with implementing evidence-based correctional programs in Delaware’s Level V and IV facilities;
  • Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is now available in every prison and work release facility statewide. Today nearly 4% of offenders in these facilities are receiving MAT;
  • The Department of Correction and Department of Education have partnered to administer an educational assessment and vocational skills assessment within the first 45 days of an offender’s sentence;
  • The Department of Correction has established Transition Accountability Plans (TAPs) for every offender with a prison sentence of one year or longer; TAPs will guide efforts to help offenders obtain a GED, high school diploma and continuing education and vocational skills training while incarcerated;
  • Planning for offenders’ release from incarceration now begins within their first two months of incarceration, rather than the last two months;
  • Access to community supports, including existing state social services and referrals to career counseling, have been improved through collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Labor and others;
  • A new graduated sanctions process for probation and parole violations has been implemented to hold offenders accountable for their actions while continuing to support reentry goals;
  • Improvements have been made in behavioral health referrals to agencies with available treatment capacity;
  • The Departments of Correction, Labor, and Education have signed a memorandum of understanding that sets in place a mechanism to share data across their agencies. 
  • A listing of available housings options is near completion and the Department of Correction and state and local public housing agencies are finalizing a plan to reduce housing barriers for returning citizens;
  • A directory of case management services available across the state has been drafted, and;
  • A “success rate analysis” model has been developed to measure the short- and long-term impacts of reentry programs on recidivism.

This progress is highlighted in the Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission’s 2019 Annual Report, which was presented to Governor Carney this past week. Read the 2019 DCRC Annual Report here, along with its appendix.

Additionally, the state is aggressively pursuing federal and private grant funding to support its reentry goals.  Two new grant funding allocations were announced today:

  • A $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice through the Delaware Criminal Justice Council will be used to fund new programming to support reentry in prisons and work release/violation of probation centers, establish a Community Resource Center for Sussex County offenders who are targeted to receive intensive reentry services, including case management and programming, and to fund data analysis conducted by the University of Delaware.
  • Delaware, through the Department of Correction, is one of five states to receive a $100,000 grant from the Prison Research Innovation Network to fund the hiring of a Prison Innovation Manager at Howard Young prison to strengthen programming for detentioners and inmates.

 

During the Governor’s visit to Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, he observed the first day of instruction for a C-tech certification program that is providing telecommunication technologies, cabling, and fiber-optic systems training for 10 inmates. He also toured the DHSS mobile bridge van, which provides reentry services and referrals for former inmates. The van operates during the week in the parking lot of the prison and at the Probation Office on Cherry Lane near Wilmington. The van is funded through the Divisions of Social Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health as a way to reach out to inmates immediately upon their release from incarceration.

Over the next year, the Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission, Department of Correction, and state agency partners will continue their reentry work to meet the following goals:

  • Implement Transition Accountability Plans for offenders in Level V facilities sentenced to one year or more;
  • Implement the data-sharing Memorandum of Understanding that was reached between the Departments of Correction, Education and Labor; 
  • Transition Delaware’s work release and violation of probation facilities into reentry centers to better prepare inmates for their return to the community during their final months of incarceration, and;
  • Continue to expand services, treatment, and education programs, both within state agencies and in partnership with community organizations.

 

 

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State, City Leaders Announce Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Project in Wilmington

Social service agencies will partner with law enforcement to prevent gun violence

WILMINGTON, Del. – State of Delaware social service agencies will partner with law enforcement to prevent gun violence in the City of Wilmington under a Group Violence Intervention (GVI) project announced by state and city leaders on Tuesday.

Governor John Carney joined Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki, Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy, and Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Kara Walker to announce their shared commitment to launching the evidence-based GVI strategy in Wilmington.   

Evidence shows that gun violence is concentrated among a small number of people at very high risk for both victimization and violent offending. The GVI strategy is intended to help these high-risk individuals avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, keep them safe, stabilize their lives, and create accountability for violence. DHSS, the Delaware Department of Correction, and the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families are among the agencies that will provide intervention services under the partnership.

“For any city to be successful, it needs to be safe,” said Governor John Carney. “Under the leadership of Mayor Purzycki and Chief Tracy, we’ve seen a significant reduction in gun violence in our city. But – as there are in all cities – there are still communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in their neighborhoods. Those shootings traumatize children and families, and tear apart entire communities. We know that this gun violence is concentrated among a small group of people who are at very high risk for offending – but also at a very high risk for being victims of gun violence. We believe we can make a real difference if we are able to reach those at highest risk, and help them avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, keep them safe, and stabilize their lives. Thank you to Mayor Purzycki, Chief Tracy, Attorney General Jennings, Professor David Kennedy and many others for their partnership on this important work.”

“Wilmington is making significant gains regarding public safety,” said Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki. “We are a safer City today because we are policing the City differently, and that difference is largely because of the trust that has been built between the police department and our citizens. Chief Tracy has introduced new and effective layers to our policing methods in Wilmington and today we add another layer that can continue to improve lives and further reduce crime. My thanks to the Governor, to the Health and Social Services Secretary and to our criminal justice leaders for embracing this effort and to David Kennedy, Chief Tracy and former Chief Cummings who are deeply invested in making sure this initiative works for all of us.”

“This is a new day in Wilmington’s efforts to curtail violence in our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Through this initiative, we are recognizing the social and economic dynamics that so often drive violent crime, and we are disrupting those dynamics at their source. This program has shown remarkable promise in sharply reducing group violence and I am committed to its missions: protecting public safety, addressing the causes of anger and hopelessness that exist in our most underserved communities, and providing meaningful alternatives to those who would build a better life for themselves.”

The intergovernmental initiative will bring together state-level social service agencies with the Wilmington Police Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and community leaders in an effort to further and more significantly reduce homicide and shooting incidents in Wilmington. Intervention will be based on frontline knowledge, and real-time data on violence and individuals who face the highest risk of violence.

The GVI work will be led by Bobby Cummings, the former Wilmington Police Chief who has been appointed Director of Group Violence at the Department of Health and Social Services. The National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, led by Professor David Kennedy, will provide technical assistance.

“Over the past several years, the Wilmington Police Department has embraced a range of proven, evidence-based policing strategies, with focused deterrence being key,” said Wilmington Police Chief Robert J. Tracy. “Implementing Group Violence Intervention – the next phase of our layered, comprehensive approach – carries the promise of achieving continued reductions in violent crime, while simultaneously offering support and wraparound services to those who embrace an alternative to engaging in gun violence.”

“We’re extremely excited to be working with Delaware and Wilmington to prevent homicide and gun violence,” said David Kennedy, Director of the National Network for Safe Communities at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We’ve known and worked with Chief Tracy for years, and the commitment of the Governor’s Office puts Delaware amongst a small but growing number of states making an executive commitment to evidence-based public safety approaches. This work saves lives, keeps people out of the justice system, and builds trust between police and communities. We’re honored to be part of it.”

“As leaders, we all have a responsibility to alter the cycle of poverty, trauma and violence in order to keep individuals and families safe and healthy,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “The newly appointed Director of Group Violence Intervention in the Department of Health and Social Services will have the resources and the staffing support to meet the social services needs of the small number of people in Wilmington who are at a very high risk for both victimization and for violent offending.”

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Governor Carney’s Statement on Senate Confirmation of Claire DeMatteis

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday issued the following statement on the Senate’s vote to confirm the Governor’s nomination of Claire DeMatteis to serve as the next Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction:

“Thank you to the members of the Delaware Senate for confirming Claire DeMatteis as Commissioner of the Department of Correction. Claire has worked side-by-side with Commissioner Phelps over the last two years to lead reform efforts at the Department – to make our facilities safer, to invest in new equipment and training, and to recruit correctional officers to do one of the toughest jobs in state government. I am confident that Claire is the right person to lead the Department of Correction and to continue that work.”

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Related news:

Governor Carney to Nominate Claire DeMatteis as DOC Commissioner


Governor Carney to Nominate Claire DeMatteis as DOC Commissioner

DeMatteis has helped lead reform efforts at Department of Correction

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday announced his intention to nominate Claire DeMatteis – a former senior counsel to then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden – as the next Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction.

The nomination will require approval by the Delaware Senate. DeMatteis would replace Commissioner Perry Phelps, who will retire on July 15. DeMatteis would be the first female Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction.

“For much of the last two years, Claire has worked side-by-side with Commissioner Phelps to lead reform efforts at the Department of Correction – to make our facilities safer, to invest in new equipment and training, and to recruit correctional officers to do one of the toughest jobs in state government,” said Governor Carney. “Over three decades of experience in government and the private sector, Claire has worked closely with community leaders, legislators and law enforcement officials and has earned their respect and trust. I have full confidence that Claire’s experience and leadership qualities will serve our state well at the Department of Correction. I look forward to the Senate considering her nomination.”

In June 2017, Governor Carney appointed DeMatteis to serve as his Special Assistant at the Department of Correction. In that role, DeMatteis worked alongside Commissioner Phelps, and led implementation of Governor Carney’s plan following the Independent Review into the events of February 1, 2017 at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

Governor Carney’s plan included a 22 percent increase in starting pay for correctional officers; significant investments in new technology, equipment and training; the creation of a Labor-Management Committee to more effectively recruit officers and decrease mandatory overtime; and renewed efforts to help inmates successfully re-enter their communities.

Currently, DeMatteis is serving as Special Assistant coordinating comprehensive re-entry initiatives across six state agencies, including the Departments of Correction, Education, Labor, and Health and Social Services.

“If confirmed by the State Senate, I look forward to working with the women and men of the Delaware Department of Correction to continue to strengthen safety and security, officer recruitment and retention, and programming and services for inmates, as well as implement a coordinated path of services from an offender’s entry into prison through release back into our communities,” said DeMatteis. “It would be an honor to lead the state’s largest law enforcement agency of dedicated correctional officers and probation and parole officers.”

The Delaware Senate is expected to consider Governor Carney’s nomination of DeMatteis this month.

From 2008-2016, DeMatteis served as General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Privacy Officer of two multi-billion dollar corporations. Previously, DeMatteis spent four years at Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, a Mid-Atlantic law firm with offices in Wilmington. She was partner in charge of the firm’s Delaware office from 2007-2008.

During her decade working as senior counsel for then-Senator Biden, from 1994-2004, DeMatteis served as a member of a senior team on issues involving law enforcement, women’s rights, civil rights and constitutional matters. She helped guide campaign strategy, managed constituent communications and drafted legislation.

Most recently, DeMatteis served in a senior role at the Delaware Department of Labor, where she helped navigate a resolution to the recent data breach at the department, keeping the media, public and legislators well informed on the state’s response and structural reforms to prevent future breaches. DeMatteis began her career working in the Delaware State Senate from 1984-1987 as a Page and Calendar Clerk. She has served state elected officials from both parties, including as legal assistant to then-Governor Mike Castle.

DeMatteis earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, and holds a law degree from Widener University Delaware Law School.

 

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