Prison standoff brought back memories of 2004

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines…

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There was a sense of déjà vu to the news this past week.

The 19-hour standoff at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna brought back memories of 2004.

Delawareans recalled the counselor who was abducted and raped at knifepoint in the same prison, then known as Delaware Correctional Center. The inmate, Scott A. Miller, was shot and killed in a tactical team’s daring rescue through the ceiling of a room that had been barricaded.

Allan Deal, then-president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said a day after the incident that officers were angry and that Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and legislators had been warned about the likelihood of such incidents with understaffing in the prisons.

The problems of turnover of officers, competitive pay and recruitment of new officers was regularly in the news in 2004.

“The officers are mad,” Mr. Deal said. “They feel neglected. We begged for more money to improve our situation and they turned us down.”

Later that year, an increase in of $600 a year in hazardous duty pay was approved by the governor.

“They had money to buy a golf course and a marina, but they didn’t have money for public safety,” said Mr. Deal the day after the hostage situation. “We told (the governor and legislature) this was going to happen and it did. Do you think the prisons are dangerous? Well you got your answer.”

Oddly enough, the Delaware State News had a story about a month prior to the 2004 incident, outlining the officers’ concerns.

In the Dec. 26, 2016, Delaware State News, reporter Ian Gronau covered similar concerns in an interview with current Correctional Officers Association of Delaware President Geoff Klopp.

“I’ve been in corrections for 28 years and all the signals are pointing to something terrible happening in one of these facilities,” said Mr. Klopp in that story.

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The Delaware State News coverage of this past week’s hostage standoff can be reviewed at www.DelawareStateNews.net.

We welcome readers’ opinions on correctional officers’ concerns, state budget issues related to prisons and inmate conditions. Email newsroom@newszap.com, or post comments under the stories on the website.

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Wednesday night, we heard the sound of a helicopter flying near the Delaware State News.

It was the unexpected arrival of Donald Trump in Marine One.

The presidential arrival for the dignified transfer of a Navy Seal killed in Yemen was not open to the media by request of the family.

Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill., a member of U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six, was killed during last weekend’s raid against a group of senior al-Qaeda leaders in central Yemen, officials said.

Christin Michaud, chief of public affairs for the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Office in Dover, forwarded a statement from the family.

“The Owens’ family would like to extend their gratitude for your interest in our Beloved Ryan,” it read. “He was a devoted father, a true professional and a wonderful husband. While we appreciate your interest, we ask at this time that you please respect our request for privacy.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, also flew into Dover on Marine One.

On Twitter Thursday, President Trump wrote, “Attending Chief Ryan Owens’ Dignified Transfer yesterday with my daughter Ivanka was my great honor. To a great and brave man — thank you!”

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From Pennsylvania this week, we received some sad news about Albert Boscov, longtime chairman of the retail chain.

Mr. Boscov, 87, told employees he has late-stage cancer in a letter.

Jim Boscov, the CEO, did not release the letter. But, in a statement, he said, “In typical fashion, the first thing he did was thank (employees) for the outstanding results for 2016. Our year-end results were far ahead of other retailers.”

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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