Vaughn, A Year Later: Part Two
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center looks drastically different than it did on this day one year ago.
Despite the time past, for some, what happened that day will never be forgotten.
"A year ago today I'd been up for about 36 hours and we were getting ready to have our first press conference. Just a lot of emotions that come back on, you know, remembering Steve Floyd and his murder and the tragic riot that happened that day in Smyrna," says Geoff Klopp, COAD President.
February 2, 2017 is a day that DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps relives not just today but everyday.
"To go through that for many hours and then when you see the end result, that's not an easy thing. You think about it every day just like the many officers working there. You think about it every night when you go to bed, you pray for the family of the people who lost their loved ones, and for the people that were taken hostage everyday, just like it was yesterday," explains Phelps.
But for Phelps, he doesn't just remember the loss of Lt. Steven Floyd, he also remembers the correctional officers that answered the call when they were needed the most.
"I have to say that the officers and the other staff that worked at James T. Vaughn are the most courageous group of people I've ever seen my life. Many of them went back the same night back to their post, they've been doing the job ever since."
It's also a constant reminder that change needs to come for the Department of Corrections.
"We have 100 less correctional officers working today than we did on this day last year, so we've made no progress in staffing. We've gone backwards," explains Klopp.
According to Phelps, the DOC currently has 261 vacancies for correctional officers and Phelps believes it's because people don't know it's a career option.
"We're behind the walls, out of sight out of mind and that in itself, when you're trying to recruit people really don't know what to expect. That's why we're going to try and go back in contact the schools, colleges, and universities to get people interested in corrections at an early age so that they are prepared to come here," explains Phelps.
Geoff Klopp — the president of COAD — believes it's something else.
Both Klopp and Phelps agree, there is a need for correctional officers, but Phelps says that doesn't happen overnight.
"I can hire 260 people tomorrow but if they're not the right people for the job then the needle is still not going to move forward. I need to make sure that we are recruiting and maintaining the professionals that we want and that are interested in the field of corrections."
Despite their differences, both men agree remembering and honoring Lt. Steven Floyd is key to finding solutions.
"It's important to remember what happened on this day a year ago because if we don't fix this there's an extremely dangerous possibility that it'll happen again," says Klopp.
Phelps adds, "When someone like that is taken away from you in the manner that it was, we need to remember and be in his honor and make sure that we do things properly and that we do our security properly. That we do rehabilitation and all those things in his honor to make sure that this does not happen again."