A recently released 159-page report suggests that had a lieutenant’s request to move inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center’s (JTVCC) been acted upon, he might still be alive today. On February 1, 2017, inmates in Building C took 126 people hostage in a siege that lasted 18 hours and left the lieutenant fatally injured. An independent review of the incident was commissioned by Delaware Governor John Carney. The report details years of staffing and security issues which ultimately erupted in the deadly prison revolt.
In January, 2017, the victim, a correctional officer at JTVCC in Smyrna, Delaware, asked prison administrators to move certain inmates out of Building C. The building had a history of tension between gang members, overworked staff, inconsistent discipline procedures, and allegations of mistreatment of inmates. The facility was brimming with tension that the now-slain officer asked officials to address. The Carney report confirmed the problems in Building C.
The lieutenant’s request was ignored and less than two weeks later, disaster occurred. JTVCC inmates took 126 people hostage, including the lieutenant, who was tortured and locked in a closet throughout the ordeal. After eighteen hours of negotiation, a prison Response Team stormed the building to find the officer unresponsive. Tragically, the 47 year-old husband and father was later pronounced dead.
Considered one of Delaware’s toughest prisons, many JTVCC inmates and employees say the siege was inevitable. Carney’s report details several issues plaguing the prison, all which went ignored in the years leading up to the officer’s death. Employees report being underpaid and overworked. In 2017, 40 percent of staffing hours were overtime. Some correctional officers reported working 16-hour shifts. At times, inmates outnumbered officers 75 to 1. They also mention a lack of consistent security procedures, leaving many prisoners armed and officers vulnerable.
Inmates claim they were neglected and abused, with no programs or activities for improvement. They cite a lack of any rehabilitative opportunities designed to prepare them for healthy and productive lives outside of prison. Inmates say their requests for access to medical care and education were consistently denied. Inmates staged several peaceful protests before the siege, with no results.
Wilmington civil rights lawyer, Thomas C. Crumplar, is part of a team representing the family of the slain officer and several JTVCC employees in a federal civil lawsuit. The suit alleges that two former Delaware governors and several cabinet officials ignored the lengthy history of problems at the prison.
The suit also alleges that Governor Carney stopped a potential rescue attempt and waited too long to send law enforcement into the building. Crumplar says the siege victims were, “involved in protecting us and they were not given the tools.” Governor Carney has vowed to make changes addressing the problems found in the report. His recent budget proposal called for more correctional officers and higher salaries for prison workers. By seeking justice for the family of the victim and his coworkers at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Mr. Crumplar hopes for changes in Delaware prison system that will ensure the rights and safety of both workers and inmates.
Wilmington personal injury lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. are committed to helping those who have been injured or suffered the wrongful death of a loved one because of someone else’s negligence. To discuss your case with a Wilmington personal injury lawyer, call 302-656-5445 today to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. Our two conveniently located offices serve clients in upstate and downstate Delaware, including those in Dover, Georgetown, and Wilmington, Delaware.