Delaware to move hun­dreds of in­mates to Penn­syl­va­nia

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ran­dall Chase

DOVER, DEL. >> Hun­dreds of in­mates from Delaware’s max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison, the site of a deadly in­mate up­ris­ing last year, will be trans­ferred to Penn­syl­va­nia in an ef­fort to re­duce over­time for se­verely un­der­staffed cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The head of the union rep­re­sent­ing Delaware cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers crit­i­cized the move, say­ing the de­part­ment needs to com­mit to im­prov­ing com­pen­sa­tion and re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of prison guards.

De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tion of­fi­cials said they have en­tered into a two-year agree­ment with the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions to ac­cept up to 330 in­mates from the James T. Vaughn Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Smyrna. The agree­ment calls for Delaware to pay Penn­syl­va­nia $123 per in­mate, per day, to house of­fend­ers who were sen­tenced in Delaware. DOC of­fi­cials said the move would re­sult in a sav­ings of $8 per in­mate, per day.

“Re­duc­ing manda­tory over­time will pro­vide re­lief for Delaware’s cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, and help make our fa­cil­i­ties safer for of­fi­cers and in­mates,” DOC Com­mis­sioner Perry Phelps said in a pre­pared state­ment.

Ge­off Klopp, head of the Cor­rec­tional Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion of Delaware, char­ac­ter­ized the move as a halfmea­sure.

“This is just an­other Band-Aid on the sit­u­a­tion,” Klopp said. “It’s a tem­po­rary fix. Un­til we’re able to hire and re­tain cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, we’re go­ing to con­tinue to have is­sues when it comes to safety and se­cu­rity in the fa­cil­i­ties.”

All of the in­mates se­lected for trans­fers will have more than five years re­main­ing on their sen­tences and will re­turn to Delaware to com­plete their sen­tences when the cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer va­cancy rate is pro­jected to be “sig­nif­i­cantly lower.”

There are cur­rently 237 va­can­cies statewide, ac­cord­ing to prison of­fi­cials. They did not spec­ify what would con­sti­tute a “sig­nif­i­cantly lower” num­ber.

The va­cancy rate re­mains stub­bornly high de­spite ef­forts taken after the Fe­bru­ary 2017 riot to boost cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer salaries and of­fer re­cruit­ment and sign­ing bonuses. DOC of­fi­cials say they have hired 130 cadets since the salary in­crease be­came ef­fec­tive in July.

A re­view or­dered by Demo­cratic Gov. John Car­ney after the riot found that the dis­missal by DOC of­fi­cials of warn­ings about trou­ble brew­ing was in­dica­tive of an over­crowded, un­der­staffed fa­cil­ity plagued by mis­man­age­ment, poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a cul­ture of neg­a­tiv­ity, and ad­ver­sar­ial re­la­tion­ships among prison staff, ad­min­is­tra­tors and in­mates.

“For years, ex­ces­sive man­dated over­time and fa­tigue ... in­con­sis­tent man­age­ment ... the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ad­ver­sar­ial re­la­tion­ships, and a general lack of re­spect at all lev­els ... have con­trib­uted to poor cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer morale and in­creas­ing hos­til­ity be­tween in­mates and cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers,” the re­view stated.

Car­ney noted that re­duc­ing manda­tory over­time was among the re­port’s key rec­om­men­da­tions.

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