Final review claims conditions inside Delaware prison led to fatal hostage situation
Excessive overtime, inconsistent policies and a lack of communication: these are all things an independent review says contributed to a prison riot seven months ago at James T. Vaugn Correctional Center. The hostage situation on February 1 claimed the life of correctional officer Lieutenant Stephen Floyd.
The review team says while the situation happened in the C-building of JTVCC, it could have happened in other areas of the prison. They say conditions inside the prison had deteriorated to the point that there was "unrest among inmates, and distrust between inmates and correctional officers, as well as between correctional officers and JTVCC administrators." The review outlines "adverse working conditions, an inmate grievance procedure deemed unfair, a distrusted medical/mental health system and a real lack of morale permeating the line officers."
The report also implies that Lt. Floyd's death was avoidable, saying "Most unfortunately, the Independent Review Team believes that had the request for the removal of certain inmates from the C-Building – made on January 20, 2017 by the very correctional officer who was killed during the incident that began on February 1, 2017 – been taken more seriously and carried out, the incident and the resulting death may not have occured."
The review team also says if conditions don't change, the problems will not end. The report says, "Left unattended, these issues will continue to provide a fertile ground for violent incidents in the JTVCC."
Several recommendations are outlined in the final report released Friday. The first recommendation on that list: "Prioritize programs and strategies that facilitate a more positive culture amongst JTVCC staff and between JTVCC staff and inmates."
To see the full list of recommendations or read the final report in its entirely, click here.
Governor John Carney released this statement Friday, ""Thank you to Judge Chapman and former U.S. Attorney Oberly for their hard work on this Independent Review. Their recommendations from June, and in this final report, will help us make real, lasting change. This much is clear: we have systemic issues within our correctional system that must be addressed, and we are committed to addressing them. We've already made progress, but there is more work ahead of us. In the coming days, we will review these final recommendations in more detail. And we will take appropriate action that will continue to improve safety and security for officers and inmates inside our facilities. As I said in June when we received the initial report of the Independent Review, we owe that to Lieutenant Floyd and all of the victims of the events on February 1."
The independent review was requested by Governor John Carney back on February 14. A preliminary report was released on June 1 and the final report on September 1. The review was led by The Honorable William L. Chapman Jr. and the Honorable Charles M. Oberly III, with support form the Police Foundation.
In reference to the independent review Geoff Klopp, President of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, says, in part, " I'd like to thank Mr. Oberly and Mr. Chapman for a careful attempt to analyze this situation. The report has some meritorious comments – but it fails totally to address the real issues. This report has the potential to go the way of The Minner Report and the later reviews by the Minner-Carney administration. The report is a nice exercise, but nothing substantial will change because of it."
Earlier this year, the family of Lt. Floyd filed a lawsuit against former Governor Jack Markell, the Department of Corrections and others. The lawsuit claims that it was the States' fault that the prison uprising happened. In July, a motion to dismiss was filed, saying that the defendents are immune from liability because they didn't violate a clearly established right. However the family's attorney says the State signed a contract with the Correctional Officers Union, holding them contractually bound to providing a safe working environment. The lawsuit asks for compensatory and punitive damages.