Delaware correctional officers took part in a new training program this week as part of recommended reforms to the state’s Department of Correction.
In response to the deadly prison riot almost a year ago at Vaughn Correctional Center, which led to the death of correctional officer Lieutenant Steven Floyd, the DOC put $160 thousand towards better training for their officers.
Wilmington University’s criminal justice department designed a specialized six-hour program that about 12 hundred correctional officers participated in earlier this week. The course emphasized communication, conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques. Additionally, officers in supervisory roles at DOC participated in a four-hour leadership course at the University’s Dover campus.
DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps says the new classes, along with new policies in the state prison system, are part of a culture change.
“I’ve been part of a culture change before, and I also do some teaching in leadership, and one of things you find in a culture change is it takes a while,” said Phelps.
The goals for this culture change are outlined in an independent review of state prisons released last fall. A recent progress report from the Governor’s office says the DOC is on pace to make progress on all of the review’s recommendations by July.
“One of the things the IRT found is one of the things I’ve found when doing town halls with my staff,” said Phelps. “Some of the communication could be better between management and the line-workers. So that’s what we’re working on.”
In addition to communication training in the new classes, Phelps says Vaughn’s Warden Dana Metzger has implemented a ‘word of the day’ policy to help build communication skills—by making sure that word is accurately communicated up and down the chain of command.
The starting salary for an entry level correctional officer in Delaware will go up in the next fiscal year from $40 thousand to $43 thousand.