The family of a slain correctional officer and two officers who were injured during a 20-hour riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware have filed a federal lawsuit over the tragedy. They blame two former governors and other state officials for the conditions that led to the hostage crisis. Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. attorney Thomas Crumplar is a member of the legal team that is representing the group.
In 2004, a convicted serial rapist serving a 699-year sentence passed through two security checkpoints with a homemade knife. He then took his victim hostage for nearly seven hours. Soon after, an independent investigation called for the state to implement changes that would have made conditions at the center safer. Investigators asked the state to hire more officers, limit overtime, and provide better staff training. The officer who was killed had also complained to superiors about the conditions and the rising tensions, but no actions were taken.
According to reports, the prison was critically understaffed when the February 2017 riot occurred. Other factors that led to the crisis included mandatory overtime that led to fatigued employees with low morale, and a lack of technology – including cameras – to keep officers safe. In fact, during a two-week pay period, officers routinely worked 80 hours of overtime in addition to their standard 80-hour work schedules. The lawsuit also claims that the prison stopped training officers to search prisoners for dangerous weapons because they were understaffed, leaving them even more vulnerable.
During the ordeal, the hostages were handcuffed and brutally beaten by the inmates, and some were locked in a maintenance closet. Although some may point to budgetary restrictions as the reason for the conditions at the prison, basic protection should never be sacrificed.
A former inmate, who had been housed in Building C, where the siege occurred, said tensions had been rising for years. The prison, which was built in 1971, houses minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security inmates.
To learn more about Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. or to speak with one of our highly skilled Delaware civil rights lawyers, call 302-656-5445 or 800-355-1818 to schedule a consultation or contact us online. With offices in Wilmington and Georgetown, we represent clients throughout Delaware.