Prisons must be a top priority for the state

Date Published: 
March 10, 2017

The recent violent and deadly riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, and the subsequent mass exodus of correctional officers from that facility, brings to light a topic that finds itself in and out of the Delaware news cycle consistently over the years.

Are we doing enough to help those correctional officers who are the “boots on the ground” at our prisons? These are the people who deal day-to-day with those society has found to be too dangerous to others or themselves to be free, and the officers have repeatedly told anyone who will listen that something like what happened in Smyrna was a very real possibility.

It’s time to take this seriously. In fact, it’s way, way past time to take this seriously.

Having understaffed prisons or not giving the correctional officers the tools they need is akin to going to war and not outfitting our service men and women with the equipment they need to get the job done. How do we expect good people to continue working these jobs if every step possible isn’t being taken to give them the best opportunity to return home intact after their shifts end each day?

Is the solution more money? Well, simply throwing money at a problem is rarely a solution, but it would certainly be an important step in this issue. We need more correctional officers in our prisons. We need those officers to be properly outfitted and trained. And we need to provide them enough of a living that they will continue to do what they do.

Should we release more non-violent offenders to help the officer-inmate ratio? That is a slippery slope, as well, as far as it basically says that someone can go ahead and break society’s rules and not face consequences for it because we have no clear way of imposing those rules.

The governor, or someone active on his staff, must go to the prisons directly and talk to these officers, hopefully with a legislator from each party in tow. The time for action is today, since we blew it yesterday.