Trump, education top inmates' reasons for hostage situation

Thursday, February 2, 2017

SMYRNA, Del. -- Inmates at a Delaware prison took five corrections department workers hostage Wednesday, a move the inmates told a local newspaper was because of concerns about their treatment and the leadership of the United States.

The hostage situation drew dozens of officers and law-enforcement vehicles to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna and prompted a statewide lockdown of all prisons.

One hostage was released Wednesday afternoon, but four remained in custody, and negotiations were ongoing as the evening stretched on, authorities said.

A preliminary investigation suggests the incident began about 10:30 a.m. when a correctional officer inside Building C, which houses over 100 inmates, radioed for immediate assistance, Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said at a news conference.

Other officers responded to help, and five Department of Corrections employees were taken hostage.

Later, inmates reached out to The News Journal in Wilmington in two phone calls to explain their actions and make demands.

Prisoners funneled the calls to the paper with the help of one inmate's fiancee and another person's mother.

The mother told the paper her son was among the hostages.

In that call, an inmate said their reasons "for doing what we're doing" included "Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he's doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse."

That caller said education for prisoners was the inmates' priority.

They also said they want effective rehabilitation for all prisoners and information about how money is allocated to prisons.

Bratz did not address the phone calls during the news conference or give details about negotiations, which he said were ongoing. He did not take questions.

The inmates released one hostage about 2:40 p.m., and that person was taken by ambulance to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, Bratz said.

Authorities don't know whether anyone else has been injured, he said.

Bratz did not say how much of the prison, which houses about 2,500 inmates, was involved in the incident.

But Bruce Rogers, counsel for the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said Building C was under the inmates' control.

Rogers described the hostages as four guards and one counselor.

He said he'd been briefed on the situation by the union president, who was talking to officials at the scene.

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