Latest: Officials: Another hostage out of prison, 2 inside

AP News
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Posted: Feb 01, 2017 8:56 PM
Latest: Officials: Another hostage out of prison, 2 inside

SMYRNA, Del. (AP) — The Latest on guards taken hostage by inmates at Delaware prison:

8:30 p.m.

Another corrections employee and more than two dozen inmates have been released from a Delaware prison building where inmates had taken hostages, leaving authorities negotiating over the release of two more staffers.

Authorities initially said five staff members had been taken hostage Wednesday at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. But at a news conference Wednesday night they reduced that number to four and said two of those people had been released. One was freed earlier Wednesday afternoon, the other Wednesday evening.

Robert Coupe, secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said 27 inmates also left the building that's been the scene of negotiations all day.

Authorities said they didn't know whether the inmates had been held against their will.

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6:15 p.m.

Inmates inside a Delaware prison where four staff members were being held hostage reached out to a newspaper in two phone calls to explain their concerns, including the leadership of the U.S., educational opportunities, rehabilitation and how the state spends money on prisons.

Prisoners at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center funneled the calls Wednesday to The News Journal in Wilmington with the help of one inmate's fiancee and another person's mother. The mother told the paper her son was among the hostages.

In that call, an inmate said their reasons "for doing what we're doing" included "Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he's doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse."

That caller said education for prisoners was the inmates' priority. They also sought effective rehabilitation for all prisoners and information about how money is allocated to prisons.

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6 p.m.

A caller to a Delaware newspaper says he is an inmate being held hostage at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, where guards have been taken hostage.

The (Wilmington) News Journal on Wednesday posted a recording online of a man who says he was told to contact the media to relay the inmates' demands. The man seems to be reading from something; he says, "This rebellion is manifested to demand (unintelligible)."

The caller's message mentions improper sentencing orders and incorrect status sheets. The caller also says maximum security inmates "are merely existing" and need rehabilitation services.

The man says he doesn't know who's taken him hostage, as "they've got my face covered." He refused to give his name.

"So what do I do now?" the inmate asks.

The call was ended with a recording, apparently by the company that provides phone services to inmates.

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5 p.m.

Delaware State Police say inmates who took five Department of Corrections employees hostage at a maximum-security prison have released one person.

State police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said at a media briefing Wednesday evening that the four other employees remain in the inmates' custody at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. He says negotiations are underway.

Bratz says a preliminary investigation suggests the incident began around 10:30 a.m. when a correctional officer inside a building that houses over 100 inmates radioed for immediate assistance. Other officers responded to help, and Bratz says that's when the five employees were taken hostage.

He says one hostage was released around 2:40 p.m. That person was taken by ambulance to a hospital with injuries that Bratz says aren't life-threatening.

Bratz says authorities don't know whether anyone else is injured.

He says authorities are negotiating with the prisoners but didn't give further details and did not take questions.

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4 p.m.

An attorney for the union representing guards at a Delaware prison says at least four guards and one counselor have been taken hostage by inmates.

Bruce Rogers, counsel for the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the inmates had taken control of one building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and injuries to both officers and inmates have been reported. He said the building under inmate control houses between 120-150 people.

Rogers says there's been very little communication between the inmates and people outside the building. He says no demands have been communicated to the union.

The state Department of Corrections has released few details about the situation at the prison in Smyrna. All prisons statewide are on lockdown, per DOC policy. Rogers said he'd been briefed on the situation by the union president, who was talking to officials at the scene.

The prison is Delaware's largest correctional facility for men, housing about 2,500 inmates.

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2:45 p.m.

The union representing guards at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, where guards have been taken hostage at the maximum security facility, reported that a corrections officer was assaulted there last week.

The Correctional Officers Association of Delaware said in an email on Saturday that guards were removing dinner trays when an inmate threatened an officer and squirted an unknown liquid on the officer's upper torso and arm.

The email says about two dozen inmates had been moved to a higher security area earlier that day and refused to eat dinner.

Geoffrey Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said Wednesday he had been told by the Department of Correction commissioner that prison guards had been taken hostage.

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2:30 p.m.

Delaware prisons have been put on lockdown following a reported hostage taking at the state's maximum security facility.

Geoffrey Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said he had been told by the Department of Correction commissioner that prison guards had been taken hostage at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

A DOC spokeswoman said only that an emergency situation was reported at the Smyrna prison late Wednesday morning. The facility was placed on lockdown, as were all prisons in the state per DOC policy. Spokeswoman Jayme Gravell provided few details but described the situation as an isolated incident, adding that there was no threat to the public.

Gravell said firefighters were called to the scene after reports of smoke and were being held on standby.