Delaware unveils new intelligence operations center to help monitor prison activity
DOVER, Del. – A new state of the art Intelligence Operations Center sits at an undisclosed location in Dover, acting as the eyes and ears for Delaware’s Department of Corrections.
Delaware’s Department of Corrections Commissioner Claire DeMatteis says the facility can be used to look at the following situations, “Are visitors attempting to smuggle in drugs or cell phones or illegal contraband? Are inmates constructing make shift weapons out of mop handles or steel coverings from drains? Or collecting bolts and stuffing them in a sock?”
Thursday was the facility’s first official day online. It’s a central intelligence and security hub staffed around the clock to monitor more than two-thousand surveillance cameras at prisons across the state.
“Every day we look at the incident reports that come out from each facility. We are able to see where that incident occurred, who was involved in it, is it a reoccurring event, what kind of event was it. Then we go to a map and we start putting pin colors in so you can start seeing where incidents are occurring and you can start seeing patterns in those,” says Dana Metzger, the warden for Special Operations Delaware DOC.
But the state’s prison security system wasn’t always this technologically advanced. “At the core February 1st and 2nd of 2017 was a failure of communication and a failure to gather and share intelligence,” says DeMatteis.
The almost one million dollar facility is a direct result of the violent inmate uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in February 2017, when correctional officer Lieutenant Steven Floyd was killed. It’s a tragedy that officials hope this facility can prevent from happening again. “While we can’t stop it, we can definitely reduce the chances of those events from ever occurring,” says Metzger.
Geoff Klopp, the President of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware (COAD), agrees this is a great step but says the state still needs to do more to address prison staffing issues which now stand at around 150 vacancies.
“I know we tried to make reasonable changes in our salary structure but the proof is in the pudding,” says Klopp. “As we sit here, almost four years later, and we only have ten more correctional officers working, I can’t say we’ve made any progress in our hiring efforts. To me there’s no more important piece in the Governor’s task force review of their recommendations, that is the most important piece in all of those recommendations.”
Another piece of the intelligence and security monitoring involves new tablets that have been distributed at prisons across Delaware. Inmates can sign them out to make calls and send texts to approved numbers as well as take classes and see counselors virtually. All of their activity on those devices is monitored. Sussex Correctional Institution will be the final facility to get those tablets within the next couple of days.
Officials say the new intelligence center is another way to help several agencies across the state collaborate on investigations. The state has also launched a tip line for staff to call in order to report activity inside facilities.