Two More Officers Assaulted At Vaughn Correctional Center On Tuesday, Officials, Union At Odds

vaughn-prisonSmyrna – Just days after a prison uprising that took the life Lieutenant Steven Floyd, two corrections officer were assaulted at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, according to a statement released by Geoff Klopp, President of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware.

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at approximately 9:30 A.M., inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna were yelling and threatening staff members during morning showers. One inmate in particular was unruly and reportedly shouting again and again that he was going to kill all of the Officers. When ordered into his cell, the inmate threw his belongings into the cell and said, “I’m taking one of you with me.” The inmate then braced his arms against the door to prevent from being secured. When Officers went to secure the inmate, he turned suddenly and punched an Officer in the face, causing injury. The inmate actively assaulted two Officers during the attack. The inmate continued to fight and assault the Officers until assistance arrived. Once secured, the inmate was removed from the area. At the time of this release, one of the Officers involved suffered a laceration on his nose, a laceration on his forehead and bruising around one of his eyes. The other Officers were not injured. Six days after the riot, assaults on staff continue.

COAD President, Geoff Klopp said, “On August 31, 2016, then-Commissioner Coupe signed an agreement with the ACLU/CLASI, which – in effect – turned control of the facilities over to the inmates and their mental health advocates. This deal – approved by Commissioner Coupe and Attorney General Matt Denn – places mental health workers between the inmates and the Officers, usually to the detriment of the Officer. Repeated incidents where an Officer directs an inmate to do something only to have mental health advocates instruct the inmate not to comply occur all too often. This agreement is another huge factor in the lack of control within our facilities. Commissioner Coupe and Attorney General Denn hamstrung the Correctional Officers from maintaining order in the facilities and protecting themselves. As long as this agreement is in place, inmates will continue to disrespect and assault – or worse – our Officers. This has to stop!”

The ACLU/CLASI agreement signed off by Coupe and Denn has also resulted in a shortage of space for the more dangerous inmates as well as limited the sanctions that can be imposed when an inmate is non-compliant with reasonable Officer instructions or housing area rules.

In response to Klopp’s statement the Department of Corrections Commissioner, Perry Phelps, issued a statement regarding the allegations made by the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware.

All individuals, whether mentally ill or severely mentally ill, are held accountable for their actions within acceptable medical guidelines,” said Commissioner Perry Phelps. “The individual accused of assaulting an officer at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center on February 7th was not on the mental health roster. In fact, he had not been seen or requested services from our medical contractor since November of 2015 when he was processed in to the facility. There is no evidence to validate the claims that mental health staff interfered and instructed the offenders not to comply with DOC officials. We’re confident Governor Carney’s independent investigation will identify any areas of concern with policies or procedures surrounding security operations and mental health relationships.

Additional responses came from the ACLU of Delaware and CLASI, in a joint statement, and  the Attorney General’s Office.

ACLU of Delaware and CLASI

We understand that the hostage crisis and the death of [Lt. Steven] Floyd has been a traumatic experience for everyone associated with the DDOC,” Kathleen MacRae, ACLU of Delaware executive director, said in her statement. “But the fact that the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware is making false claims about the terms of the agreement to attack DDOC, former-Commissioner Robert Coupe and Attorney General Matt Denn is troubling to say the least. As a result of mass incarceration policies, overcrowding and chronic understaffing have been known problems within the prison system for decades. It is utterly untrue and irresponsible for COAD to say that the settlement agreement turned control of our prison facilities over to inmates.

Attorney General’s Office

Department of Justice attorneys provided legal representation to the Department of Correction in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Community Legal Aid, as DOJ does by statute in virtually all lawsuits filed against state agencies,” the statement said. “The lawsuit was settled in mediation between the Department of Correction and the plaintiffs.

Department of Correction Community Relations Chief Jayme Gravell confirmed that an Officer was struck in the face by a pre-trial detainee on Tuesday, in an email to First State Update.