Letter to the Editor: Lawsuit shines light on Del. prison abuses

A recent headline suggested that the class action lawsuit recently filed by Dover attorney, Stephen Hampton, added “complexity” to the ongoing criminal trials of several inmates concerning the death of corrections employee, Steven Floyd.

We write to explain that this lawsuit, a massive case detailing many outrageous abuses against more than 100 inmates, seeking to hold accountable dozens of state official, adds the truth to the situation! And I, Ken Abraham, a criminal trial attorney with hundreds of trials under my belt, see no real “complexity” added to the criminal cases … none at all.

We have been all too aware of ongoing abuses in our prisons for years, and we have frequently called the problems to the attention of officials who could do something about it. It is long past time that somebody does, before more prison staff and/or inmates die due to preventable violence.

This comment by Mr. Hampton is perhaps the understatement of the decade. Truer words were never spoken: “The DOC hasn’t held themselves accountable in the past, I don’t see why they would this time,” said Mr. Hampton. “The only DOC employees fired or dismissed are the ones that have some sort of disagreement with management — someone seen as a troublemaker who is going to raise complaints. If you were going to fire people for incompetence or malfeasance, there’s a substantial portion of DOC management that should go right now.”

Equally frustrating and cruel to inmates is the abominable “health care,” deliberate neglect of serious illnesses and injuries, and the total lack of effective mental health treatment. Regarding mental health, inmates are given a piece of paper telling them how to breathe and relax. That’s it!

As the complaint in the lawsuit points out, many men at JTVCC have been punched, kicked and pepper sprayed while they were restrained and fully compliant with all of the instructions given them.

All of us should care that DOC has such disregard for the law and the inmates under its supervision. Our state government has taken a “business as usual” approach to the atrocious things happening in our prisons, probably sensing that there are not many votes to be had through real prison reform. As it is now, anyone employed at DOC who points out the real problems, gets demoted or fired. Our hope for this lawsuit is that it inspires someone with governmental authority to have the political will to acknowledge the problems at DOC and address them head-on.

We would be remiss if we did not also remind all readers that more prison jobs, more education and rehabilitative programs, and better pre-release programs would benefit all of us. Ninety-six percent of all prisoners will be released. The better prepared they are to reenter society, the less recidivism — future crime — we will see.

We come together to write this because so many of these problems, which affect all of us, clearly are illegal, unconstitutional and immoral.

Ken Abraham
Former deputy attorney general
Founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE

The Rev. Christopher Bullock
Founder and pastor of Canaan Baptist Church
Former president of New Castle County Council,
Former chairman of the Delaware Black Caucus
New Castle

Lori Alberts
President of Link of Love
Chairwoman of the Kent County Partnership for Reentry

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