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February 02, 2017

Delaware prison violence a tragic reminder of risks corrections employees face

A Delaware corrections sergeant was killed and at least one staff member injured Feb. 1 in a day-long hostage situation at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near the town of Smyrna.

According to media reports, four corrections employees were taken hostage by inmates at 10:30 a.m. in Vaughn CC’s Building C, which houses 120 inmates stepping down from maximum to medium security.

During the day, two hostages were released, one of them with injuries.

After many hours elapsed without further release of staff, tactical teams from Delaware DOC and State Police stormed the building early the next morning, Feb. 2.

Sgt. Steven Floyd, a 16-year Delaware DOC veteran, was found dead. Delaware officials have not released the cause of death.

The second hostage, a female prison counselor and AFSCME member, was rescued and said to be uninjured.

“AFSCME Council 31 stands in solidarity and mourning with Sgt. Floyd’s family and all correctional employees in Delaware on this tragic day,” AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Eddie Caumiant said.

In 2004, an investigation at the same prison after a hostage-taking and rape of a prison counselor revealed understaffing was making Delaware prisons unsafe.

When asked whether staff shortages contributed to the new tragedy, Delaware Corrections officials dodged the question, saying only, “We are constantly recruiting to try to fill our vacancies.”

“Corrections employees put their lives on the line every time they walk into work,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “The Delaware tragedy should remind all Illinois residents—especially those who determine state prison policies—that any attempt to run a corrections system on the cheap will lead to greater human cost.  AFSCME will continue to press for adequate staffing and appropriate security measures in Illinois prisons and to oppose all efforts to erode the employee rights that are so critical to fostering safer conditions.”

AFSCME International President Lee Saunders said the events “are a terrible reminder of the risks these public service workers take on for the security and betterment of society …. “We owe all of America’s correctional employees a debt of gratitude and respect – and we owe them the resources and tools they need to do their jobs safely.”

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