Delaware corrections employees held hostage in prison standoff

DOVER, Del.  — Two Department of Corrections employees were still being held hostage on Wednesday as authorities continued to communicate with inmates hours after a standoff unfolded at a state prison, officials said Wednesday night.

Two other staff members from the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, were freed several hours apart, said Perry Phelps, deputy state commissioner of corrections.

Authorities said 27 inmates were also released back into custody from the building where the hostage situation took place. Officials couldn’t say if the inmates were being held against their will.

“It’s been a long and difficult day,” Delaware Gov. John Carney said.

The incident unfolded shortly after 10:30 a.m. when codes rang out for a major disturbance in one building that housed more than 100 inmates, authorities said. Officers responded to assist and four department of corrections employees were taken hostage.

The facility was quickly put on lockdown during the incident, authorities said.

State police initially said five staffers were taken hostage.

One staffer was released around 2:30 p.m. and the second staffer was released Wednesday evening, according to Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert Coupe.

State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said the first employee who was released was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of everyone involved and using all of our available resources,” Bratz said about four hours into the standoff.

“It’s a very scary situation right now,” Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said earlier during the standoff.

The Kent County Fire Department responded to the prison around 11:30 a.m. after an alarm was sounded, KYW reported.

The correctional facility is about 90 miles east of Washington.

Opened in 1971, it houses about 2,500 minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security inmates, including death row inmates, according to the state bureau of prisons.