Fear at core of Delaware prison rebellion
The Short Version
Inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware triggered a statewide lockdown after they took four hostages and closed down a cell block in the state’s largest prison. Their reason for doing so? Deteriorating care and fear of changes under the presidential administration. Two hostages have been released as the standoff continues.
6:13 PM EST (AP) State officials used a backhoe to smash through a barricade inmates had constructed from footlockers, ending the 20-hour-plus standoff. A male guard was found dead. A female counselor was released unharmed.
Inmates had used “homemade weapons” to overpower the staff and secure the hostages. The deceased hostage had been shoved into a closet initially and from there radioed other guards to warn them of a booby trap, potentially saving more lives. State officials have not yet revealed when or how the guard died.The other guards taken were severely beaten, but inmates protected the female counselor from harm during the ordeal.
Geoffrey Klopp, union president, blamed severe staff shortages for the guard’s death, saying that the situation would have been preventable had the facility been fully staffed.
Delaware’s Governor, John Carney, repeated his statement that those responsible would be dealt with appropriately.
9:05 AM EST: (AP) Officials announced in a statement Thursday morning that they had secured the building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center where the disturbance occurred. The prison is in Smyrna, about 15 miles north of the state capital of Dover. Officials say after authorities breached the building, one Department of Correction worker was found unresponsive and later pronounced dead.
Delaware Gov. John Carney said that the persons responsible will be held accountable and steps will be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
8:54 AM EST: (AP) Delaware prison officials say one hostage is dead and a second is alert and talking after authorities entered a building at the state’s largest prison where inmates had taken staff members hostage.
What We Know So Far
This is still an active situation as of Thursday morning, so be aware that some of this information may change as the day goes on.
The call went out around 10:30 Wednesday morning from cell block C: “Officer in need of assistance.” Officers ran to help. They were immediately taken hostage. The standoff began.
James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware is that state’s largest prison. Cell block C houses over 100 inmates. According to Dover attorney Stephen Hampton, a civil rights attorney who has represented inmates from the prison, complaints about conditions including medical care and record keeping have increased over the past year. Additionally, pre-trial inmates held at the facility are routinely denied access to the library and other facilities to avoid mingling with regular inmates.
Inmates called The News Journal in Wilmington to explain themselves. Some of their concerns were not surprising: education for inmates, effective rehabilitation, and information regarding how money is allocated to the prison. Then came the surprise. Included in the reasons for their actions was, “[The president]. Everything that he did. All the things that he’s doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse.”
Obviously, that last point makes negotiating a little difficult and may be the primary reason the standoff continued through the night.
Two of the hostages were released. One was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 27 inmates who apparently were not normally housed in the cell block and not part of the protest were also released.
Robert Coupe, the secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said they had been in radio contact with the inmates and were continuing to try and peacefully resolve the matter as quickly as possible. He declined to comment on statements made to the newspaper, saying that those points of interest could be addressed once the current situation has ended.
Nationwide, those resisting the 45th president and his administration have taken to various forms of protest. However, the concerns raised by the inmates at the Smyrna prison are the first to be publicly voiced within that community. The president’s rhetoric has been taking a tough stand against crime and criminals, but prisons and their conditions are not topics that have yet been addressed by the administration.
Again, we must emphasize that this situation is still active and likely will change throughout the course of the day. As it does, we will provide updates at the top of the page.