Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Protesters near Smyrna prison demand transparency

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
A group of protestors stand near Vaughn showing their support for inmates.


Just hours after the hostage standoff at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ended Thursday morning with one corrections officer dead, several demonstrators gathered near the facility. They say they don’t trust the police side of the story, and demand an independent investigation.

One of those demonstrators was Isaiah McCoy, who was released from Vaughn just two weeks ago, after spending six years in solitary confinement. He was also once on death row for years.


McCoy said he felt oppressed at the Vaughn Correctional Center.


“During my time there, I was beaten, my food was spit in, my legal correspondence was disrupted and contaminated by correctional officers because the chain of command is flawed,” McCoy said.


McCoy was joined by several other former inmates who want an independent body to look into what actually happened inside the prison this week. 


“People don’t realize you never really understand what us inmates go through as a whole and what’s really going on in there,” said James Green, who was an inmate at Vaughn for seven years. He was released in January 2016. “Some people (are) not gonna step up and say something, but I’m gonna say something because I experienced so much in there, it’s ridiculous.”


Green said he would like to know if anything inside the facility is ever going to change.


That’s what the group of demonstrators were looking for Thursday morning. Sharon Black, with Peoples Power Assembly, an advocacy group based out of Baltimore, said they would like to see a “community commission” to relay the facts on what happened during the hostage situation on Wednesday.


“We think the only way that the public is going to know the truth is for the relatives, the friends of relatives, advocates, people from the community, to be able to investigate, talk freely to people behind bars uncensored and find out what the truth is of what took place,” Black said.


Black said she received a call from a prisoner last night who claimed inmates were tired of the racism and a lack of education inside of the facility.


“First of all, even their demands - we think - are important that the public knows,” Black said. “That the prisoners took these drastic measures, risked their lives, and a life was lost in this, primarily because of the horrendous conditions.”


Representatives from the Workers World Party and Smyrna’s Link of Love also joined in the demonstration. The group also attracted the attention of counter-protestors who supported the guards and other staff at Vaughn. 


Black said Thursday’s demonstration is the start of something bigger, and Smyrna won’t be the only stop the group makes. She but did not indicate where else they may demonstrate.

Related Content