Part 2: Ex-Correctional Ofc. Claims Abuse, "Lack Of Professionalism" At DOC
DOVER, Del. - Are Delaware prisoners being abused by staff members?
It's a question 47 ABC set out to answer after a February death of an inmate who was reportedly beaten by guards.
Inmates aren't the only ones speaking out.
A former correctional officer's first day on the job as a correctional officer started what she calls an odd, long trip. For the purpose of the story, the CO is referred to as Jane Smith to conceal her identity.
"I saw an inmate sitting at a sergeant's desk with his feet propped up, the keys were laying there cuffs wide open," said Jane Smith. "I'll never forget, I looked at him and said, 'you're an inmate?' He said, 'yeah I'm a crew worker.' I said, 'do you belong sitting at a sergeant's desk? Where are they?' 'Oh they're around.'
"Just about that time a young lady came running through the door and threw ice down his back. I walked outside, looked at the towers and looked all around to see if I was at an institution for criminals or an institution for an insane asylum."
Jane says she left after nearly a decade with the badge because of the lack of professionalism from fellow workers. Some she claims were sleeping on the job and harassing prisoners.
"I had a partner that would deliberately kick the cells, talk trash and throw things under the doors," claims Jane Smith.
47 ABC asked commissioner Robert Coupe is those allegations presented a professional environment at the Department of Corrections.
"No it's not," Coupe says. "If these folks talked to you and said that, that's not a healthy work environment."
Jane also told 47 ABC about a former CO who reportedly smuggled in cell phones and drugs. Just days after the interview, Delaware State Police arrested CO Darryl West in connection with similar charges. We went back to Jane and asked who she was referring to and she told us it was "West."
"You don't speak up because if you do, you're going to be the one they get rid of," said Jane Smith.
Commissioner Coupe says he created a culture of accountability when he took over the position. He explains it as giving officers a voice.`
If concerned about their safety or the safety of co-workers and inmates, he wants his workers to speak up.
"If they don't have confidence in the leadership to address an employee that's unprofessional and not doing their job that's abusing offenders, that's not a good place for us to be," said Coupe.
A place Jane says hopes changes with her story.
"It's like having 100 apples and you got one with the worm and you forget about the other 99. You only remember the one with the worm," said Jane Smith. "They need to get rid of the worms."
Coupe admitted that he has fired workers for sleeping on the job with the most recent termination coming last week.
To read Part 1 of 47 ABC's investigation into abuse claims at DOC, click here.
To read Part 3 of 47 ABC's investigation into abuse claims at DOC, click here.
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