Vaughn Prison Hostage Standoff Over

And one hostage, a corrections officer at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, was killed.  Details are still emerging, but the prison standoff began yesterday and ended early this morning as State Police stormed the C Building where two Correction workers were being held hostage.  In the operation, one of hostages was rescued and taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.  The second hostage was found unresponsive, and was pronounced dead minutes after the C building was secured.  It is not yet known the name of the officer nor what has happened to the hostage takers.  More details will be provided at a 10:30 am news conference.

Governor Carney released the following statement: “I’m praying hard for the fallen officer’s family.  This serves as a tragic reminder that members of law enforcement risk their lives every day on behalf of the people of Delaware. We will stand by the fallen officer’s family and fellow law enforcement officers during what is an extremely difficult time.”

Criminal justice activist Ken Abraham sent the following along that gives us all some background as to what happened:

Prisoners at a maximum security correctional facility in Delaware have taken over a building and are holding multiple guards hostage, officials say. The inmates overwhelmed correctional officers Wednesday morning at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, state police said.  Four guards were taken hostage, and two have since been released, authorities said. Officials originally said five officers were being held, but later said it was only four. The facility holds about 2,500 inmates, all males, including those on death row.

In calls to the Wilmington News-Journal by an inmate and a woman who said her son was being hostage, prisoners said they took the guards hostage to demand better conditions. At least one guard was injured, but suffered non-life-threatening injuries. He has been released, state police say.

Delaware State Police and the FBI were assisting the Department of Corrections. Officials have given little information about what is happening. All prisons in Delaware have been locked down as a precaution, per state policy.

[….]  “The inmates have taken over a building,” state Rep. William Carson, a member of the Delaware House Corrections Committee, told the Wilmington News Journal. Firefighters from the Citizens’ Hose Company responded to the prison at 1181 Paddock Road about 11 a.m., the Delaware State News reports.

An inmate called the Wilmington News-Journal about 1 p.m. Wednesday to relay the prisoners’ demands. He called the incident a “rebellion,” the newspaper reports.The inmate, who didn’t give his name, called through his fiance. She said her husband was not one of the hostage takers, and was being held hostage himself. “I’m just doing what I’m being told to. I’m just trying to help, ma’am. They just need somebody to hear their demands,” he told the reporter who answered the call.

The caller said the hostage takers want prison reform and better conditions, but the News-Journal reported the demands weren’t clear.   “Improper sentencing orders. Status sheets being wrong. Oppression towards the inmates,” the man said.  A second call was made later Wednesday to the News-Journal by a woman who said her son was being held hostage:

“We’re trying to explain the reasons is for doing what we’re doing. Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he’s doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse. We know the institution is going to change for the worse. We got demands that you need to pay attention to, that you need to listen to and you need to let them know. Education, we want education first and foremost. We want a rehabilitation program that works for everybody. We want the money to be allocated so we can know exactly what is going on in the prison, the budget.”   

[…] The guard hospitalized after being released from the prison by the inmates was beaten, WPVI-TV reports.  The 35-year-old guard was struck numerous times with fists and a mop wringer, the news station reports. He was reported to be awake and alert.

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6 comments on “Vaughn Prison Hostage Standoff Over

  1. This will be interesting, after the initial wave of hatred for the inmates the real questions begin. My primary concern is was the prison short staffed as a result of an austerity measure? Are the same politicians playing the same games they play every where else in a place where death and mayhem can occur in a single moment? And did a man die because of it, I suspect this to be the case. And as ever will the lesson be learned, or turned into politics like usual.

    • Here’s my guess on how this will play out. (It’s been 20 years since I worked at that jail and my wife retired from there last year. My guesses on C building is still accurate though, as my wife says that building hasn’t changed since I last worked there)
      C building is considered short staffed if the # of officers posted there is less than 4 (and since this was the day shift that # should have been 5) I’ve worked there on the day shift with 3 officers. The information I have heard is that inmates staged a fight, the now dead Sgt called for back-up because of the fight. The Sgt realized that the fight was a trap and yelled that info to the responding officers. This is why there was only 4 hostages (1 counselor and 3 officers). It could have been much worse. The responding officers locked down the outside of C building so that the incident would remain there
      Yes, the building will be considered short staffed after review and it will be fully staffed for about 3 or 4 months after…Then… will be back to business as usual.

      the prison is chronically short staffed because no one really wants to work there. It doesn’t pay enough. morale sucks, etc. I worked there for 10 years and I could not honestly tell you how to fix it. But I will tell you that the recent lack of decent pay raised in the last few years for state employees and the raising of healthcare for state employees hasn’t really helped morale or staffing

  2. And another point…This happened when I was there. For instance if the regular staffing at a building were say 4 and you ran it with three, if you still got stuff done in a timely matter and didn’t have many issues, eventually you’d never see a 4th person.
    I was working a certain building at DCC and were were running the building short 2 officers (regular 5 officers we had 3) and they wanted to send our building to lunch. I didn’t send the building until we got a 4th officer. to say that I had some interesting conversations with my superiors would be an understatement 🙂 It would take a lot of other officers to do something along those lines for the short staffing to ever get relieved, I think.
    I’m actually more pissed at the jail for their slow response….Once the whole story is out, you’ll probably be a bit pissed too..

    • Do you think we’ll hear the whole story? I was thinking about Attica this morning when the news was talking about this — wondering if we would ever know the full story about why this uprising happened.

      • Delaware is a small state, so I don’t think that too much will get swept under the rug…Besides, most of corrections will know of the story (you can see some of it on facebook) I think most of the story will trickle out in the next few days.

  3. I did hear a Newsworks report on this earlier and heard the union rep lay this right at Jack Markell’s feet:

    Late Thursday the Corrections Association of Delaware laid the blame for the Vaughn uprising at the feed of former Governor Jack Markell. They sited under-staffing has been an ongoing problem and called on Governor Carney to address the situation.

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