Gov.’s office: Lawyers’ inmate concerns forwarded to Department of Correction

DOVER — A letter sent to Gov. John Carney on March 20 by a Dover law firm calling for the “torture of Delaware inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center to cease immediately” received a reply from the governor’s office chief legal counsel Danielle Gibbs.

Attorney Stephen Hampton, of the law firm Grady & Hampton LLC, claimed in his original letter that “scores of inmates have been brutalized and tortured at the prison near Smyrna since C-building was stormed by law enforcement and correctional officers on Feb. 2” in reference to the Feb. 1 uprising at Vaughn that left a correctional officer dead.

In her response, Ms. Gibbs acknowledged the letter on Gov. Carney’s behalf and noted that because the Department of Correction is “completely responsible for the maintenance, supervision and administration of adult detention and correctional services and facilities of the State,” Mr. Hampton’s original letter and attachments had been referred to them and their legal counsel within the Department of Justice. The response also noted that: “Given your (Mr. Hampton’s) threat of litigation, however, we must decline to comment further.”

Attorney Stephen Hampton looks at letters from inmates at his Dover office. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Adding to the letter exchange, Mr. Hampton sent a response back to Ms. Gibbs on Thursday. Claiming to have heard from at least 150 inmates about instances of “abuse” and “brutality,” he dismissed the forwarding of his original letter to the DOC as “futile.”
“If, as it appears, the Governor has no remedy available to end torture in Delaware prisons other than to forward the complaints to DOC, it can rightly be said that there is no State Department or Agency that will protect Delaware inmates from being tortured in Delaware prisons,” Mr. Hampton wrote in his response.

Mr. Hampton also warned about the possibility of more “violence and bloodshed” if the “disaster at JTVCC” wasn’t addressed promptly.

“Many of them (inmates) fear for their safety,” he wrote. “That fear will turn to anger if the abuse continues. Inmates whose grievances are ignored eventually will feel like they have nothing to lose, and will strike out at DOC staff.”

Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said once again that Gov. Carney takes allegations of abuse very seriously, but because Mr. Hampton has indicated that he plans to sue the state, the governor will not comment on the content of either letter.

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