Last week, OCSEA members in Corrections learned the horrific news that a Correction Officer in Delaware state who had been taken hostage, had been killed. Amidst the outpouring of grief from law enforcement personnel around the country, discussions soon turned to understaffing in Delaware state prisons and beyond.
A spokesman for the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, who represents the COs, said the union had been warning state officials for months about understaffing. “Sometime between January and July, the wheels are going to come off,” Geoff Klopp of COAD told a reporter for a local paper months ago.
And he was right. Inmates seized “Building C” at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, Delaware and held at least three staff members hostage including Sergeant Steven Floyd, whose death by trauma has been ruled a homicide. The standoff lasted 18 hours.
Floyd was a dedicated father of two as well as a union steward, helping hundreds of his fellow employees with workplace grievances. Floyd was promoted posthumously to Lieutenant.
The union representing prison employees in Delaware has had a long history of documenting dangerous security practices like understaffing, reliance on overtime and mandation and overcrowding. In fact, in 2004, another hostage incident resulted in a counselor being raped and an inmate being killed.
A lawsuit was filed against the state for security lapses in the 2004 incident and was settled in 2005.
OCSEA has had similar concerns about overcrowding and understaffing in Ohio’s prisons and continues to bring the issue before lawmakers and media outlets.