Inmates spending more time out of cells, in classrooms at James T. Vaughn
SMYRNA, Del. – Basic education is something many of us take for granted, but not the inmates inside of the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. On Wednesday, prison officials announced a new classroom inside prison walls. Those classrooms are are allowing inmates to get a basic education, setting them up for a better life outside of prison.
“For the first time in our history we are able to offer significant and life-changing education and treatment opportunities for our maximum security offenders,” Dana Metzger, Warden of the prison, said.
Now, inmates can now spend less time in their cells and more time in a classroom.
“Opening up building 20 is a great opportunity for us to have educational classes in the back building that we’ve never had before,” Metzger said.
For the first time, students inside the correctional center will now have a chance to work from the bottom up and eventually earn the equivalent of a high school diploma.
“The adult basic education is mostly reading and math, we get them up to speed on that and then we start getting them ready for the GED test,” Marc Dickerson, a teacher at the prison, said.
The classes will be held in cycles with each cycle accommodating about 40 inmates. Warden Metzger says those inmates will be chosen based on a number of factors.
“Depending on their classification when they come into the prison system, they could go right back out in the street without getting any kind of change, and that’s what brought them here in the first place,” he said.
Teachers who work inside these four walls say the inmates couldn’t be more excited for opportunities to learn and grow before being released.
“I think a lot of them realize that this is a great opportunity for them to better their life and walk out of here with some education that they can use on the outside,” Dickerson said.
Officials with James T. Vaughn say while the prison has faced hard times, namely the 2017 prison riot that ended in the death of Lieutenant Steven Floyd, it’s changes like this that will help ensure sure a tragedy like that never happens again.
“The unfortunate circumstances that happened back in February…we’re always looking at ways at how we can try to do better,” Metzger said.
Warden Metzger says before these classrooms were introduced, educational services were offered in the prison, but it was more of a one-on-one basis. He adds that this isn’t the only new change. Officials also created an inmate advisory council aimed at listening to the concerns of inmates within the prison.