Inmates take guards hostage at max-security Delaware prison

Inmates take guards hostage at max-security Delaware prison
All Delaware prisons have been placed on lockdown after reports of an emergency situation at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. The state Department of Corrections said the incident involves inmates taking guards hostage.

Representative William Carson, a member of the Delaware House Corrections Committee, said he had been told it was an “apparent hostage situation.”

“The inmates have taken over a building,” he told the Delaware News Journal.

Three to five correctional officers were taken hostage, according to Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware union.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jayme Gravell told the News Journal that state police and DOC response teams were called in to deal with the hostage situation.

This is an isolated incident and there is no threat to the public, Gravell said, noting that a statewide lockdown was DOC policy.

Firefighters were called to the scene because there were reports of a possible fire inside, but DOC officials told them that “they also had a situation involving inmates and they were trying to get that controlled," Citizens' Hose Company Public Information Officer Gene Tucker told the Dover Post.

"This is a police issue and we are in support mode only, standing by until we are told our services are no longer required," he added.

Along with firefighters from Smyrna's Citizens' Hose Company and Townsend, the Delaware State Police and other law enforcement agencies, EMS ambulance units, Kent County Paramedics and a hazardous materials team are all at the prison.

A local blood bank is asking for more donations of type O blood and platelets in response to the hostage situation.

Named after a notable state senator, the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) is located outside of Smyrna, a town of some 10,000 residents in central Delaware.

The prison houses some 2,500 inmates in minimum, medium and maximum security sections. It is also serves as the pretrial detention center for Kent County.

The prison was in the news on Tuesday because of a decision to continue serving prisoners on an alternative meal plan the controversial “nutraloaf.” The nutritional, bread-like substance has been the subject of years of lawsuits calling it cruel and unusual punishment, and many states have stopped serving what one JTVCC prisoner described to AP as “baked slop.” In November, neighboring Pennsylvania announced it would no longer serve the meal replacement.

The last major incident of this kind at the prison was in July 2004, the News Journal reported. Convicted serial rapist Scott A. Miller had somehow passed through two security checkpoints before using a homemade knife to take hostage a prison counselor, and sexually assaulted her during a seven-hour ordeal. That standoff ended when a corrections officer shot and killed Miller.

The hashtag #vaughnrebellion is being used on Twitter.