Delaware Public Media

Inmates' families frustrated about state prison review

Feb 15, 2017

 

Prison reform activists and inmates’ families are frustrated by how slowly the state is moving to review the hostage situation at a state prison that left one guard dead earlier this month.

The last time Connie Runyon said she heard from her son, an inmate in the C building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, was the night the hostage situation began.

 

“He says ‘we’re protecting this woman counselor.’ I said, ‘law enforcement has it under control, they’ll get it resolved,” Runyon said. “Somebody in the background yelled, ‘hang up the effin’ phone!’ He said ‘I love you mom’ and hung up.”

 

Runyon said she has heard reports of inmates being beaten by officers. And she, along with many families of inmates, formed a Facebook group to discuss concerns about their loved ones. 

 

The Delaware Coalition of Prison Reform and Justice has received many emotional letters and phone calls from families, inmates and even former correctional officers, said Rev. Christopher Bullock, the chair of the coalition.

 

“Some of the letters will bring you to tears in light of how fearful they are for their lives and the kind of conditions and how they’re disrespected,” Bullock said. “If true - it’s alarming.”

 

Bullock said these letters are reinforcing his group’s calls for an immediate federal investigation. He said he thinks Gov. John Carney’s review of the stand-off is too narrow in scope and will take too long. A preliminary report from the state review is expected June 1, followed by a full report Aug. 15.

 

In a press release from the coaliton, Bullock said he felt further action should be taken beyond the state level to prevent deadly situations in Delaware state prisons from ever happening again.

 

“We do not feel the state can investigate itself,” he said.

 

Bullock says the coalition is sending a letter to the Federal Department of Justice in the next few days, calling for investigation.