Group: Prison under-staffing isn’t the issue, “prison abuse” is

The issue of under-staffing in prisons has been a long-standing topic in Delaware with one union being especially vocal following a deadly inmate uprising in February.

However, another non-profit organization is challenging the claim that under-staffing was an underlying cause.

"Until DOC [Department Of Corrections] starts to admit, recognize and do something about the problem of prison abuse, nothing will change," says Ken Abraham. "When they say prison staff do not abuse inmates, total baloney. Total baloney."

Abraham, a retired attorney, is now president and founder of the organization Citizens For Criminal Justice. He claims he's seen what he calls "prison abuse" first-hand, which includes alleged verbal and physical assaults on inmates by correctional officers.

He served five years at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna for drug use.

"It's not about what they did to me, it's about what they do to helpless people everyday because they can," Abraham tells 47ABC. "You put a mean-spirited little bully in a uniform and let him do whatever he wants to and never hold him accountable, what's he going to do? He's going to keep doing the same thing."

This is the type of alleged behavior he says causes anger and frustration in prisons, enough for violence to ensue.

In February 2017, Lieutenant Steven Floyd was found unresponsive and later pronounced dead after a prison uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Lieutenant Floyd was one of four members of the Department of Correction staff taken hostage in Building C at JTVCC. 

The stand-off in February lasted for 19 hours.

47ABC brought the claim of "prison abuse" to the Delaware Department of Corrections on Tuesday.

In a statement from Jayme Gravell, Chief of Community Relations for Delaware DOC, we're told there are occasions when an inmate's behavior "warrants physical contact".

The statement reads in part "However, our officers are trained in accordance with the DOC Use of Force policy. Under such policy, officers employ the least amount of physical contact necessary to obtain compliance."

Abraham's claim is in stark contrast with the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware ('COAD').

Union president Geoff Klopp has brought the issue of under-staffing in prisons to the forefront after the deadly hostage situation in February.

"Inmates don't get the programs that they need. They don't get the time out of their cells that they need. They don't get their visits and staff is so burned out that, that it just a dreadful situation," Klopp told 47ABC Tuesday.

When asked to comment on Abraham's claim that the issue of alleged "prison abuse" is the problem, not under-staffing, Klopp says the issue of less than minimal staffing has been around for years. He added, the issue was present when Abraham himself was behind bars.

"We had staffing issues, so how does he know since the jail was never properly staffed when he was incarcerated? He has no idea how that jail would have operated like had it been properly staffed," explains Klopp.

A "Council on Correction" meeting was held Tuesday evening from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the DOC building in Dover. 

Categories: Crime, Delaware, Local News