WILMINGTON, Del. (WTXF/AP) - The family of a guard killed during a prison riot, and five other officers who survived the inmate uprising, are accusing the state of Delaware of ignoring security and staffing problems.
In February, inmates took four correctional workers hostage at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, setting off a nearly 20-hour standoff during which correctional officer Steven Floyd was killed.
The siege ended after two other guards were released, three others escaped and tactical teams broke through and rescued a female counselor.
Their federal lawsuit filed Tuesday claims the state failed in its obligation to provide adequate staffing and safe working environments within Delaware's prisons.
Correction officers had complained for years about understaffing and low pay, resulting in high turnover and low morale.
Defendants include two former governors and four Department of Correction commissioners.
They accuse Govs. Ruth Ann Minner and Jack Markell of not to employing enough officers to safely run Delaware prisons for 16 years.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, “Instead, they spent up to $23 million a year forcing understaffed officers to work 16 hour overtime shifts, to save money at the expense of risking human lives at the hands of violent criminals. These policies were hidden from the Delaware General Assembly and its elected representatives.”
The group is asking for separate money awards "for Lt. Floyd's widow and three adult children for his unnecessary death and suffering. The five officer survivors seek damages for their physical, emotional and mental injuries: such as fear; terror; post-traumatic stress disorder; acute stress disorder; adjustment disorder; anxiety; flashbacks; trouble sleeping; recurring nightmares; fear of crowds; decreased energy and motivation. Additional economic losses include: lost wages; benefits; pension and retirement benefits; and decreased earning capacity."
After the uprising, Warden David Pierce was placed on paid leave, while more than two dozen medical workers at Vaughn quit.
Days after, a lawyer for for the state correctional officers union said inmates at the maximum security prison had staged a "dry run" protest to gauge the response of prison officials two weeks earlier.