The Feb. 1-2 inmate uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, in which correctional officer Steven Floyd Sr. was killed, didn’t surprise Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware. Klopp says the incident reflects a broken Department of Correction.
Approaches to fixing the situation include installing a new warden at Vaughn and a new Bureau of Prisons chief. Klopp notes a preliminary version of a report ordered by the governor resembles one that followed a 2004 hostage situation, which made similar points on staffing, equipment and policies. What happened then? “Things got worse,” says Klopp, 50. Programs for inmates declined. Staffing fell. Overtime rose. The new report calls for consistency in enforcing rules and more activities for prisoners. It was followed by concrete action: a significant increase in starting pay for officers and formation of a new committee “to study ways to help recruit and retain officers, and decrease the use of mandatory overtime,” the report says. (Vaughn is authorized for 628 positions. In mid-June there were 65 vacancies. In one recent week, 880 of the 2,100 shifts needed at Vaughn were handled with overtime, Klopp says.)
His other critical fixes include a clear schedule of raises, like State Police uses, for what he calls “the most difficult job in the world”; better training for all prison staffers; and mandatory training for inmates “on core issues of why they’re incarcerated: addiction.”
Klopp began his career in Correction in 1988. He has been union president for six years.