Delaware Inmates Protesting Conditions Inside Vaughn Prison Conduct Hunger Strike
SMYRNA, DELAWARE – September 3, 2018
Delaware Department of Correction spokeswoman confirmed some Vaughn Correctional Center inmates have refused to eat since Wednesday. Twelve inmates housed in the prison's high-security area started refusing to eat Wednesday morning. Some inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Centerhad refused to eat as they protest a lack of rehabilitation and education programs, treatment by correctional officers and electronics being taken away from them.
By Sunday afternoon, the number of inmates engaged in a hunger strike is 2, down from a dozen who stopped eating Wednesday, a department of correction spokeswoman said.
A'Keem Cropper participated but ate breakfast on Saturday, according to a prison spokesman.
Prisoners at the Smyrna-area facility were upset by how different levels of inmates are being mixed inside the facility, Cropper explained.
This includes having severely mentally ill inmates in recreation yards with "non-mentally ill inmates," he said. He also said violent offenders are being housed with nonviolent offenders, Delaware Online reports.
"This in itself can cause friction among the inmate population, as well as inmate versus personnel," Cropper commented the reasons for the protest.
The number dwindled to four by Friday, then three Saturday, then two by Sunday, the DOC said.
After only 72 hours the incident is classified as a hunger strike, according to the department, but the situation remains to be very dangerous.
On February 1, 2017, the State of Delaware was confronted by the news of an ongoing incident in which inmates housed in the C-Building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC), seized the building and took hostages. The seizure of the building resulted in the death of one correctional sergeant;2 injuries sustained by two other correctional officers; one non-custodial staff member was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons; and, allegations of inmate injuries.
An inmate letter received by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) July 2017; specifically alleging “unjust practices” at the JTVCC that contributed to the uprising.
An independent review of James T. Vaughn following last February’s prison uprising, which led to the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd, recommended the Department of Correction receive an independent assessment of health care at the prison.
An independent assessment of the prison health care pointed out several insufficiencies.
Lengthy wait times to receive care was one of the most significant problems the report identified.
Following the prison riot, former inmates and relatives of inmates alleged prisoners were not receiving necessary care for serious medical and psychiatric problems.
It must be noted that in one inmate letter to the Coalition for Prison Reform stated that some officers are “reasonable andunderstand” while others are described as “unprofessional, nasty, rude, disrespectful, meanand abusive.” The letter goes on to say, “We do not want correction[al] officers belittling us,cursing us or abusing their power, under no circumstance should we be treated as less thanhuman beings.”
Patients with chronic conditions are sometimes not seen in a timely manner, and the waiting room area in the main clinic is so small some patients wait for hours to be seen or may return to their unit without receiving health care at all.
The National Conference on Correctional Health Care Resources standard of timeliness is that a patient see a health care professional within 48 hours after a request or 72 hours on weekends.
In addition, while inmates are aware of the sick-call process, they reported not receiving instructions — such as orientation or a handbook — on how to access health care.
While the DOC staffing model is adequate, at the time of the assessment, 23 health care positions — including five charge nurses, nine registered nurses and five licensed practical nurses — were vacant, WHYY wrote.
Left unattended, these issues will continue to provide a fertile ground forviolent incidents in the JTVCC.