Medical workers quitting prison after fatal inmate uprising

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2017 6:46 PM

DOVER, Del. (AP) — More than two dozen medical workers at a Delaware prison have quit in the aftermath of an inmate uprising and hostage taking in which a prison guard was killed.

Connections Community Support Programs, the medical contractor at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, has reported 29 resignations since the Feb. 1 uprising, Department of Correction officials said Wednesday.

The resignations include 19 nurses, three nurse practitioners and a health services administrator. Two clinicians, two medical assistants, a dental assistant and a psychiatric technician also have quit.

DOC officials did not immediately respond to questions about the impact of the medical departures and minimum staffing levels spelled out in the contract with Connections.

Eight correctional officers also have resigned this month, and eight others have submitted retirement paperwork.

Meanwhile, a Republican state senator on Wednesday proposed using some of the millions of dollars the state pays for staff overtime at its prisons to hire more correctional officers.

Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, also called for across-the-board pay raises for DOC personnel.

"We can use existing funds to pay these officers a more competitive salary, and in the process increase the quality and depth of the pool of new recruits," said Lawson, a member of the legislature's budget writing Joint Finance Committee.

Lawson is proposing that the state hire 180 new correctional officers, increase the starting salary of new corrections officers to $37,000 and raise pay for all DOC personnel by $4,000.

Lawson said his proposal would cost around $15 million, less than the $22 million currently budgeted for overtime because of staffing shortages.

The head of Delaware's correctional officers' union has blamed state officials for ignoring chronic staffing shortages for more than a decade, putting prison workers at greater risk.

Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, has said that if there had been the proper amount of staffing at the Vaughn prison, inmates would not have been able to overpower correctional officers and take control of a building.

The inmates took four DOC workers hostage, setting off a nearly 20-hour standoff. They released two correctional officers before tactical teams used a backhoe to breach the building and rescue a female counselor. Correctional officer Steven Floyd, 47, was found dead.