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Two-day summit on State Corrections in Delaware discusses staff experience

Delaware Public Media

Two state legislators are hosting a virtual State of State Corrections in Delaware Summit this week

Among the topics Sen. Marie Pinkney and Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown tackled Tuesday was correctional staff experience - including diversity among its ranks

Bureau of Prison Chief Shane Troxler says he does not see that as an issue.

"We have a vast diversity in our agency from the ranks of lieutenant all the way up to warden. We have both in gender and race and like I said I'm very proud. This department is very, very diverse."

And Department of Correction Victim Services Coordinator Erin Connelly says she feels women working at DOC - no matter the building – even level 4 and level 5 facilities – can feel comfortable they belong.

"I think there's a lot of opportunity for you, for anybody at this department, and I've been here since 2016 and have gone in all of our facilities throughout the state and never felt like I shouldn't be there."

The issue of salary for corrections officers was also discussed as DOC continues to deal with a more than 12 percent vacancy rate. Officials say they discuss starting pay and benefits with recruits during academy and after graduating to ensure they are clear what they are.

The impact of the pandemic on DOC staff was among the topics on day one.

Speakers all mentioned the difficulty they faced especially at facilities that can’t close and just send everyone home.

Troxler says that facility leaders worked with staff to move shifts for those with children and dealing with at-home schooling and closed daycare centers.

Troxler says there were other significant adjustments made to handle COVID cases within the workforce.

“We were down at one point close to 90 staff out with COVID so we had to augment some operations. We had to keep programs going virtually. I coordinated with the courts to set up virtual courtrooms at all our level 5 facilities."

Department of Correction Victim Services Coordinator Erin Connelly said at the start of the pandemic they started calling staff diagnosed with COVID to check in and see if they need groceries or someone to talk to since they were quarantined.

Juvenile justice and behavioral, medical and substance-use treatment programs were also among the topics discussed on the summit’s first day.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.