Deadly uprising at Delaware prison highlights widespread understaffing problem

Posted at 2:29 PM, Jul 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-07 16:29:01-04

On February 1 last year, inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Delaware, took six correctional officers and a counselor hostage.

Alisa Profaci, a correctional officer for nearly 30 years, was assigned to help rescue her colleagues.

"When I got inside, the Major was out there and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘It’s not good, they’ve taken Charlie Building, they have hostages and there is blood everywhere,’" Profaci said.   

Six hostages were released during the 18-hour standoff. But 47-year-old Lt. Steven Floyd, a 16-year veteran, didn’t make it out alive.

"The day after the incident I did not go back," Profaci said.

She is among more than 200 correctional officers and medical staff at Vaughn who have resigned or retired since the uprising. According to the Department of Justice, there is an average of one guard for every five inmates nationwide. On the day of the uprising, Profaci says Charlie Building, where Floyd was attacked, had four guards for 127 inmates.

Lauren-Brooke Eisen, with the Brennan Center for Justice, said understaffing is a problem in at least 16 other states and that the issue is often addressed through overtime.

"Most prisons in this country are not adequately staffed," Eisen said. "Most correctional guards are required to work immense overtime, we’re talking 14, 16, 18-hour shifts."

According to the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, about 40 percent of staff is working overtime during any given shift. Profaci said it’s only a matter of time before another deadly takeover happens at another prison.

"My prayers are with them and I fight the fight for them. Until we get where we need to be. … Better, safer conditions," Profaci said.

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