Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Delaware Prison Rebellion & Hostage Situation: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
8:37 pm EST, February 1, 2017
By Tom Cleary

Prisoners at a maximum security correctional facility in Delaware have taken over a building and are holding multiple guards hostage, officials say.

The inmates overwhelmed correctional officers Wednesday morning at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, state police said.

Four guards were taken hostage, and two have since been released, authorities said. Officials originally said five officers were being held, but later said it was only four.

The facility holds about 2,500 inmates, all males, including those on death row.

In calls to the Wilmington News-Journal by an inmate and a woman who said her son was being hostage, prisoners said they took the guards hostage to demand better conditions.

At least one guard was injured, but suffered non-life-threatening injuries. He has been released, state police say.

Delaware State Police and the FBI were assisting the Department of Corrections.

Officials have given little information about what is happening. All prisons in Delaware have been locked down as a precaution, per state policy.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information is made available. Here’s what we know so far:

1. Four Officers Were Taken Hostage When the Inmates Took Control of a Building & At Least 1 Was Wounded

Geoff Klopp, the president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware said multiple guards are being held hostage at the prison.

“We’re hearing that three to five correctional officers have been taken hostage and the inmates have control of the building,” he told Delaware State News.

Sergeant Richard Bratz said a correction officer called for immediate assistance in “C” Building, which holds more than 100 inmates, about 10:30 a.m.

The facility was placed on lock down and five guards were taken hostage. About 2:30 p.m., one of the guards, who was injured, was released and taken to the hospital. He is expected to survive.

Two other guards were released later Wednesday.

Bratz said they do not know if anyone else was injured.

State officials have released few details about the incident, but called it “isolated” and said there is no threat to the public.

“The inmates have taken over a building,” state Rep. William Carson, a member of the Delaware House Corrections Committee, told the Wilmington News Journal.

Firefighters from the Citizens’ Hose Company responded to the prison at 1181 Paddock Road about 11 a.m., the Delaware State News reports.

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2. Inmates Have Called it a ‘Rebellion’ & Cited Donald Trump as a Reason for the Uprising

An inmate called the Wilmington News-Journal about 1 p.m. Wednesday to relay the prisoners’ demands. He called the incident a “rebellion,” the newspaper reports.

The inmate, who didn’t give his name, called through his fiance. She said her husband was not one of the hostage takers, and was being held hostage himself.

“I’m just doing what I’m being told to. I’m just trying to help, ma’am. They just need somebody to hear their demands,” he told the reporter who answered the call.

The caller said the hostage takers want prison reform and better conditions, but the News-Journal reported the demands weren’t clear.

“Improper sentencing orders. Status sheets being wrong. Oppression towards the inmates,” the man said.

A second call was made later Wednesday to the News-Journal by a woman who said her son was being held hostage:

We’re trying to explain the reasons is for doing what we’re doing. 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. We know the institution is going to change for the worse. We got demands that you need to pay attention to, that you need to listen to and you need to let them know. Education, we want education first and foremost. We want a rehabilitation program that works for everybody. We want the money to be allocated so we can know exactly what is going on in the prison, the budget.

The hashtag “VaughnRebellion” was trending on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

Geoff Klopp, the head of the correctional officers union, said no demands have been passed on to them. It is not known if state police, the FBI or the Department of Corrections officials, who are at the scene, have been communicating with the inmates.

3. Dozens of Police Officers & Vehicles Could Be Seen Surrounding the Prison

Dozens of police officers could be seen outside the prison, gathering in formations, while ambulances stood by. Police helicopters were circling above.

Firefighters were originally called to the building for a report of smoke, but it was not known if fires were set inside.

Police were still standing by outside the building about 5 p.m., six hours after the hostage situation began.

Dan Dunne, who was the national spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons in 1991 during a hostage crisis at a prison in Talladega, Alabama, told the News-Journal the release of information is the biggest challenge for prison officials.

He told the newspaper the prisoners inside can hear information through TVs, radios and phones.

Dunne said it’s important for police and hostage negotiators to know what the hostage takers want, and what motivated them to take hostages. He said their demands should be “respected and understood in order to further interact with him.”

During the 10-day 1991 situation, which involved Cuban inmates who were protesting their deportation, Dunne said they used a Miami Herald reporter to help learn the prisoners’ demands.

“At least there is information to discuss,” he said of the phone calls made to The News Journal. “The doors closed with nothing from the hostages can be more dangerous.”

4. The Blood Bank of Delaware Has Put Out a Call for Donations as a Precaution as Local Hospitals Prepare

The Blood Bank of Delaware put out a call for donations of type O blood, but said it was only as a precaution, the Wilmington News-Journal reports.

“A hospital in that area contacted us and asked us to boost their supply,” Rick Thomas, the blood bank’s vice president of blood services, told the newspaper. “They are expecting patients to be brought in.”

The guard hospitalized after being released from the prison by the inmates was beaten, WPVI-TV reports.

The 35-year-old guard was struck numerous times with fists and a mop wringer, the news station reports. He was reported to be awake and alert.

5. A Female Counselor Was Raped & Held Hostage at the Same Prison in 2004

The Vaughn Correctional Center was the site of another hostage situation in 2004, when a female counselor was taken hostage after being raped, The Associated Press reports.

Scott Miller, 45, was later killed by a sharpshooter, ending the standoff after nearly seven hours.

The prison opened in 1971. A large addition was completed in 1996.

Tom Cleary is a reporter and editor for Tom was a breaking news reporter at the Connecticut Post and an editor at the Register Citizen and New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @tomwcleary. 

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