Measures include new staffing at JTVCC, equipment, security teams
WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney announced on Monday that he is taking important steps to address security risks for employees and inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC), and across Delaware’s correctional system, following the February 1 hostage incident.
Initial steps include:
- An investment of $340,800 in new security and communications equipment to better equip correctional officers to respond to and prevent violent incidents at JTVCC and in Level V facilities statewide. Governor Carney will propose another $1.2 million for equipment purchases in his Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal – which will be released March 23.
- Increasing the presence of specialized security teams and the frequency with which they perform random security sweeps at JTVCC.
- A proposal in Governor Carney’s recommended Fiscal Year 2018 budget plan to add 50 correctional officers at JTVCC – and an increase of 25 correctional officers at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution – at a total cost of $2.3 million.
- The relaunch of a consistent email address – AskDOC@delaware.gov – to improve communication between family members of inmates and Department of Correction personnel. Family members can send questions and concerns to that address, or reach DOC personnel at (302) 857-5470.
The Delaware State Police and the Delaware Department of Justice continue to lead a criminal investigation into the events of February 1 and February 2, including the death of Lieutenant Steven Floyd. The Delaware Department of Correction is also conducting an internal investigation.
Given the duration of the criminal investigation and his sense of urgency surrounding this issue, Governor Carney also announced Monday that the Independent Review – led by Justice Henry duPont Ridgely and Judge William L. Chapman Jr. – will commence this week. The reviewers have contracted with the Police Foundation to assist in the review, and they will coordinate with the Delaware State Police and the Delaware Department of Justice to ensure they do not compromise any aspect of the criminal investigation.
“Once Justice Ridgely and Judge Chapman complete their review, I will take their recommendations seriously and take appropriate action to address safety and security risks at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center,” said Governor Carney. “In the meantime, however, it’s our responsibility to do whatever is in our power to make the environment at Vaughn safer for correctional officers and inmates. Prisons are inherently dangerous places. But everyone inside that prison, and their loved ones, deserves to know that their government takes their safety seriously, and that we’re doing what we can right now to right the ship at Vaughn.”
“Maintaining the security of James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and all of Delaware’s correctional facilities remains our number one priority,” said Perry Phelps, Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction. “The short-term investments in state-of-the art equipment will help our officers identify and respond to security threats, and longer-term investments in staffing, recruitment and officer training will go a long way to helping ensure public safety, and the safety and security of employees and inmates at all of our facilities.”
“I appreciate the governor taking these first steps toward addressing the issues facing our correctional system,” said Representative James “J.J.” Johnson, who chairs the House Corrections Committee. “While today’s announcement represents a positive step, we also must commit to looking at the whole issue and take action to rectify it. We cannot go halfway, and we cannot look at only one aspect. I look forward to hearing more in the coming weeks and months ahead as the independent review takes place.”
“I’m pleased to hear the Administration is taking important steps to beef up security in our prisons prior to the conclusion of the Vaughn investigation,” said Senator Bruce Ennis, who chairs the Senate Corrections & Public Safety Committee. “We must move swiftly to give our correctional officers the tools and resources necessary to keep our prisons safe while we consider broader staffing solutions and other recommendations that may come out of the independent investigation.”
“The severity of the situation in our correctional system requires swift action, not only to produce results in safety within the confines of our prisons, but also to restore the confidence of our correctional employees,” said Representative Deborah Hudson, the House Minority Whip. “I am hopeful that these measures will send an important message that we support their work. I also commend the Governor for working quickly to address these problems that are years long. The tragedy at the Vaughn Correctional Center happened after only weeks of the Governor taking office, and, already, he is showing his commitment to making immediate, as well as systemic, changes within our correctional system.”
The following is a fuller description of the measures the Governor is taking:
The Governor has authorized the Department of Correction to work with the Office of Management and Budget to purchase new communications equipment to enable more effective coordination of officer response to incidents; equipment that will allow officers to conduct safer, more effective searches; and new protective gear for correctional officers.
The Department of Correction has increased the presence of specialized security teams and the frequency with which they perform random security sweeps at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Where warranted, those identified as security threats are being relocated to higher-security housing units.
Officer Retention, Pay & Staffing
The Department of Correction and the Office of Management and Budget are working expeditiously to review and address recruitment and retention of quality correctional officers. This review includes an examination of hiring strategies and potential adjustments to the entry salary for correctional officers through collective bargaining starting in the spring.
Governor Carney will include an increase of 50 correctional officers at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and a further increase of 25 correctional officers at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in his recommended budget for FY 2018. In addition, Governor Carney will recommend providing additional funding for correctional officer training, as well as funding to broaden recruitment efforts and advertising, to ensure correctional officer positions are filled as quickly as possible.
Family members of inmates may send questions and concerns to an email address – AskDOC@delaware.gov – that will be monitored by Department of Correction personnel. They also may contact the Department of Correction at (302) 857-5470. Department of Correction staff also now have access to a new, internal email to communicate concerns and ideas with agency leadership.
Correctional Officer Well-Being
The Department of Correction has worked with behavioral health volunteers from the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps and the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) Mobile Crisis Team in order to provide behavioral health support teams to correctional officers statewide. The Department has partnered with churches, police agencies, and other organizations to provide free services to DOC staff and their immediate family members since the February 1 incident. Additionally, the Department has worked with members of the Delaware Psychological Association to provide free short-term crisis counseling for DOC and provider staff affected by the incident.
Behavioral health resource guides have been distributed to DOC staff members who wish to find a provider in their community. DOC staff who sought faith-based support were provided contact information for the “Clergy Group” through the Salvation Army. Facility staff has been provided behavioral health support through partnerships with the K9 First Responder Therapy Dogs and Delaware’s Paws for People. During the incident, DOC worked with DSAMH’s Mobile Crisis, K9 First Responder Therapy Dogs, and the State’s Employee Assistance Program to provide behavioral health services within correctional facilities and directly to staff.