New construction at Vaughn prison complex criticized

Geoff Klopp

SMYRNA — A $1.5 million Automotive Skills Facility and $18,460 storage building intended to help provide inmates with job skills are nearing completion on DOC property adjacent to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC), said Delaware Department of Correction officials.

Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, has criticized the investment. He expressed frustration at the state’s spending priorities during what he sees as a DOC staffing crisis.

“We have seen the number of overtime hours rise week after week and this is burning our officers out,” he said. “Honestly, what has been done since February? Some officers have received radios that they should have had years ago and that’s about it.

“But, there is a new motor pool facility being built at JTVCC, a new storage building being constructed at the nearby Central Violation of Probation Center and there is more new fencing in place at the State Police horse stables there.

“I guess we can see where the governor and our state leaders have put correctional officers on their list of priorities. Can you hear the can being kicked down the road?”

An aerial view of the James T. Vaughn Correctional on Paddock Road north of Smyrna. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Since taking on his role as governor earlier this year, John Carney has called for new equipment, 75 more correctional officers and suggested correctional officer salary changes. Gov. Carney’s March budget proposal recommended calling for a $4.7 million to increase hazard pay for correctional officers, effectively raising starting salaries from $35,179 to about $37,000 while investing $1.3 million into new equipment and training.

However, at the time, Gov. Carney said those proposed changes are only a starting point.

“I think it’s fair to say that there’s more that will have to be done,” he said in March.

Defending the construction of the two new buildings, Jayme Gravell, spokeswoman for the DOC, said both were planned and approved in 2016. The construction of the automotive facility began this Jan. and funds had already been allocated before that, she said.

“The Automotive Skills Facility at JTVCC was authorized in the financial year 2016 capital budget at the cost of $1.5 million,” Ms. Gravell said. “The decision to install the storage building at CVOP was made in mid-2016 when the DOC recognized a need for additional space for the landscaping and equine programs.

The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna . (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“Both programs were designed to provide inmates with basic skills which would enable them to secure employment upon release as well as participate in community service projects. The project came with a price tag of $18,460, which was raised entirely by the facility through projects completed by inmates.”

She also said the buildings are important to the DOC’s mission in reducing recidivism in the long run.

“The delivery of treatment services and educational programs provides marketable job skills to the inmates in DOC custody,” said Ms. Gravell. “When an inmate is released from prison with the tools and knowledge to sustain a career, he or she is prepared for a successful future and the DOC experiences reduced recidivism.”

The automotive facility will emulate a real work environment in which auto services such as oil changes, belt and alternator repair and other minor maintenance is taught to inmates, Ms. Gravell said.

The nearby storage building will help support the DOC’s landscaping a equine programs for inmates. According to Ms. Gravell, The DOC/DSP Equine Care Program is a joint partnership between the DOC and the DSP Mounted Patrol Unit. It’s a six-week certificate program for offenders to receive a minimum of 240 hours of instructional training and hands-on experience relevant to aspects of equine care and barn management. DSP is responsible for feed, hay, veterinary and farrier care for the horses. DOC provides the maintenance of fences and upkeep of the pasture lands.

The storage building is expected to be completed in May and the automotive facility is scheduled to follow in July.

DOC names new deputy commissioner

A longtime veteran of the Delaware Department of Correction, Alan Grinstead, has been named deputy commissioner of the agency, according to the Associated Press. Mr. Grinstead took over the duties of deputy commissioner on Monday.

The deputy commissioner is a member of the executive staff, oversees various bureaus within the department and works on policy development, strategic planning and decision making.

Mr. Grinstead began his career as a probation and parole officer in 1989 after graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in criminal justice.

Mr. Grinstead most recently served as bureau chief of Community Corrections.

Before that, he was deputy bureau chief for three years and served as director of probation and parole.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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