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Archive for the ‘Department of Correction’ Category

A 41-year-old Laurel man is the latest inmate to die in Delaware prisons.

George J. Dombrosky, was serving 50 years and 20 days for first-degree Unlawful Sexual Intercourse and second-degree Murder at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) near Smyrna. His sentence effective date was 11/10/1997.

According to a Department of Correction press release, Dombroskly died “after a lengthy illness.”

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Joseph Birowski, of Hartley, is the most recent inmate to die in Delaware’s prison system.

Birowsky, 53, was serving a 20 year sentence at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) for Continuous Sexual Abuse and Unlawful Sexual Intercourse.

According to a Department of Correction press release, Birowsky died in the JTVCC infirmary Sunday night at 9:16 p.m. “following a lengthy illness.” The release also stated “no foul play is suspected.”

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Two inmates housed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) near Smyrna died Thursday of apparent suicides.

According to press releases from DOC spokesman John Painter, both inmates hung themselves.

Brian Smith, 40, of Lansdowne, PA, was being held in default of bail on charges of Rape 1st, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Possession of a Deadly Weapon During Commission of a Felony, Rape 2nd, Unlawful Sexual Contact, Kidnapping 1st, Aggravated Menacing, and Terroristic Threatening.

Smith had been in Department of Correction custody since 07/20/2007. He arrived at JTVCC on 07/03/2008.

Smith was found at 5:50 a.m.

Kenneth D. Bigelow, 36, was found unresponsive in his cell and was pronounced dead at 2:50 p.m.

Bigelow, of Wilmington, DE, was being held on Violation of Probation on an original charge of Burglary 3rd. Bigelow arrived at JTVCC on 01/04/2010.

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Feds grant DOC more time to satisfy Memorandum of Agreement

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) has failed to keep it’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, in which it promised to improve inmate health care.

According to an e-mail sent Thursday morning by the DOC, the U.S. Department of Justice has granted the DOC an extension to make the necessary changes, and it has allowed the DOC to remove two institutions from the agreement.

The DOC entered into an agreement with the federal Department of Justice in 2006, after federal investigators determined that shoddy medical care was violating the civil rights of the inmates in state custody.

The e-mail from the DOC touts the improvements the agency has made. It does not specify the amount of additional time granted by the federal government.

The Justice Department had three options, as the DOC was not expected to fulfill it’s portion of the MOA. The DOJ could have brought suit against the state, quit the MOA without further action, or granted the extension.

The full text of the DOC’s email follows:

Department of Correction & US Department of Justice
Announce Extension of Medical Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
Significant progress cited, reduction in scope from initial agreement

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) announced today that it has extended its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on inmate medical and mental health care services with the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ). The extended agreement is greatly reduced in its scope from the original MOA and credits the State of Delaware with “significant” progress already made over the past three years.

During the time period covered by the current agreement, the State has come into full or partial compliance with 98 percent of the provisions – 214 out of 217 – contained in the original MOA. As a result of that effort, the extension eliminates provisions at every facility.

Improvements at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution were so substantial that the women’s prison is released entirely from the extended agreement. In addition, Sussex Correctional Institution has been removed from the medical care portion of the extension.

The new agreement, effective December 30, 2009, continues the role of the Independent Monitor, Joshua W. Martin, III of the Wilmington law firm of Potter Anderson and Corroon LLP, for the next year; however, the agreement specifically calls for the reduction of the role of the Independent Monitoring Team during the first year, and for the DOC to begin self-monitoring and reporting to the USDOJ during the second year.

The extension permits an extremely collaborative relationship between the DOC and the USDOJ to continue as the agencies share the common goal of bringing the State into full compliance with the MOA.

“I am pleased to sign this agreement,” said DOC Commissioner Carl C. Danberg. “Significant progress has been made as we continue to address the needs of inmate health care, and that effort is acknowledged in this new agreement. Through this extension, we are renewing our commitment to completely satisfy the MOA.”

While admitting there is still improvement to be made, Commissioner Danberg notes that the agreement itself reflects the State’s enormous progress over the past three years:

“Since monitoring began in early 2007, the State of Delaware and Department of Corrections staff have cooperated thoroughly with the Independent Monitor and his staff, as well as with the Department of Justice; have demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to addressing the challenging issues posed by meeting the requirements of the MOA; and have shown a willingness to proactively and voluntarily undertake measures to improve conditions throughout the system.”

  • “DOJ acknowledges that significant improvements have been made in many areas covered by the MOA during the past three years, and that the State has achieved substantial compliance with many specific provisions of the MOA.”
  • “In recognition of the substantial progress made towards improving the quality of medical and mental health care delivered at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution (“BWCI”), the greatly improved internal monitoring mechanisms established by the State, and the State’s demonstrated commitment to sustaining and building on these improvements, the Parties agree that BWCI is hereby released from the requirements of this Amended MOA….
  • “The DOJ also acknowledges that substantial improvements have been made to the quality of medical care delivered at the Sussex Correctional Institution (“SCI”).”

“Through this agreement, the Department of Justice confirms the tremendous strides we have made in providing inmate heath care in the State of Delaware,” said Danberg. “Using that as a foundation, we will continue to move forward and aggressively address the provisions in the new agreement.”

“This is good news for Delaware,” said State Representative J.J. Johnson, Chair of the House Corrections Committee.  “The U.S. Department of Justice has clearly indicated that significant progress has been made, but we have more work to do. This agreement commits the State to finish what we started.”

The two agencies entered into the original MOA on December 29, 2006, when the State agreed to take specific actions intended to improve medical and mental health care services at four prison facilities – Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (previously known as Delaware Correctional Center), and Sussex Correctional Institution.

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Bruce L. Donophan, 54, of Lincoln, is the most recent inmate to die in the Delaware Department of Correction.

Donophan was serving a sentence of nine months and 27 days for a parole violation. His sentence began Sept. 30, 2009.

According to a written statement by the DOC, Donophan’s body has been turned over to the State Medical Examiner’s Office, “as is standard procedure. No foul play is suspected.”

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The Reverend Christopher Bullock, senior pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church, wants an investigation into allegations that guards at the Sussex Correctional Institution are retaliating against the 42 inmates who came forward telling state officials they witnessed an unprovoked assault by three guards on one inmate – an attack they claim was started by the guards.

“The citizens of Delaware deserve a thorough investigation from the AG’s office, with the outcome being the truth,” Bullock told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “There should be an investigation driven by the facts, driven by reality, and the truth should be known.”

Bullock said if the allegations are proven, the “perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“It’s hard for me not to believe that 42 people didn’t see the same thing. Therefore, I am concerned that this might be swept under the rug like other investigations have been, and may become a political football. We’re dealing with people’s lives and taxpayers money, and we’re dealing with the truth over falsehoods. I believe the truth will rise again.”

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(Editor’s note: this story can also be viewed in CRI’s Special Reports section.)

Victim of the assault by guards still suffering from injuries received during the beating, according to his written statement obtained by CRI.

By Lee Williams

After 42 inmates at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown came forward telling state officials they witnessed an unprovoked assault by three guards on one inmate – an attack they claim was started by the guards – retaliation has begun against the whistleblowers.

The inmates documented the assault on a Department of Correction (DOC) grievance form, which bears their 42 signatures. It was sent to Attorney General Beau Biden, Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, the NAACP and Dover attorney Steve Hampton.

They specifically asked Biden and Danberg to shield them from retaliation from the guards, who remain assigned to the tier.

The 42 inmates want criminal charges brought against two guards and a sergeant “who assaulted inmate Usef Dickerson on 11/11/09, in front of about 43 inmates on A-Tier.”

Their grievance states the guards, “violently punched and kicked inmate Dickerson to the body and about the head and face.”

Dickerson’s statement of the events provides more detail. Both complaints allege that the guards verbally provoked the assault, which began with an exchange of words.

In his statement, Dickerson said a guard sergeant “grabbed me by the head and pushed me into the chow hall. Then he quickly tried to slam me to the ground, but I ended up falling on top of him. At that point, I knew he was trying to hurt me, so I held him on the ground with one arm close to his body, so that he couldn’t do nothing to me.

“Seconds later, one officer who I cannot identify because he came from behind me, put me in a choke hold an began choking me while the other officer began punching me in the face. That’s when I let Sgt. [name withheld by CRI] go, closed my eyes and they continued to punch and choke me until I was either knocked out by a punch or until I passed out from lack of oxygen, because I was choked so long. I cannot say which it was, because I was being choked and punched at the same time.

“When I finally regained consciousness, I was being pepper-sprayed and punched in the face, but I was not being choked. I don’t know how it happened, but around a minute later, I was being escorted out of the building in handcuffs by an officer not involved in the assault.”

He strongly denies fighting back during the assault.

Several days prior to the attack, Dickerson said the guard sergeant told him, “I’ll beat you like your daddy should have.”

Dickerson filed grievances about the assault, sick call requests for medical aid, and asked to have his battered face photographed. He claims to suffer from constant headaches and broken blood vessels in his eyes.

Intimidation begins

Acquaintances of the inmates who reported the assault say staff has started to retaliate against the 42 whistleblowers.

The retaliation ranges in severity from the minor – making an inmate dump his food tray before he has had a chance to eat – to the serious.

One inmate, CRI was told, was watching a football game Sunday. He did not hear the guards announce a head count, and remained behind. The guards threatened to charge him with attempted escape, which could add years to his sentence.

Throughout the tier, the guards are asking all of the signatories “why did you sign?”

Dover attorney Hampton said, “The mere mention of the petition by staff to the inmates who signed it is itself intimidation.”

The DOC is also trying to suppress more information about the assault from leaking out of the prison.

The Caesar Rodney Institute has learned that a Delaware news reporter requested to interview three of the 42 inmates who witnessed the assault.

Tuesday evening, CRI has learned, the DOC’s internal affairs investigators pulled the three inmates whom the reporter sought to interview from their cells and interrogated them about Dickerson’s assault.

Department of Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg did not return calls seeking comment for this story. Danberg has said the investigation into Dickerson’s assault will take months.

SCI has a reputation for abuse, especially if the inmate is small, non-threatening and mentally or physically ill.

Dickerson stands 5-foot, 4-inches, suffers from severe asthma and weights 130 pounds.

In June, guards at the facility nearly beat Laurel businessman David Sully to death, by raining down blows to his head and face. Several wounds on Sully’s face required stitches to close. When he left the facility, he was covered with dye used in the guards’ pepper spray.

Despite horrific photos that chronicled the assault, Danberg said his guards did nothing wrong. He implied Sully had done something to merit the repeated beatings. Sully is 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.

Last month, Gianfranco Carta said guards at SCI shot pepper spray directly into his mouth, and then smacked his head into a concrete wall several times as he walked blindly down a hallway. Carta stands 5-feet, 7-inches and weighs 140 pounds.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit has said Carta’s story is “under investigation.”

In 2006, several guards attacked inmate David Kalm. Sometime during the assault, one of the guards shoved a nightstick or similar object down Kalm’s throat, tearing his trachea. Kalm is 5-feet, 7-inches and suffers from asthma, COPD and severe anxiety.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit investigated and found the guards did nothing wrong. Kalm has since sued the DOC. His case is pending.

The guards – defendants in the civil suit – are represented by the Attorney General’s office, after the office concluded they did nothing to merit criminal charges.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

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(Editor’s note: this story and the inmate grievance can also be viewed in the Special Report section.)

Witnesses ask Attorney General Beau Biden, Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg, ACLU, NAACP to protect them from abuse and retaliation.

By Lee Williams

An entire tier – 42 inmates – at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown has come forward telling state officials they witnessed an unprovoked assault by three guards on one inmate – an attack which they say was started by the guards.

The 42 whistle-blowers claim physical assaults, taunts and intimidation by guards on SCI’s Medium Security Building’s “A” tier are a daily occurrence.

They documented the assault on a Department of Correction (DOC) grievance form, which bears their 42 signatures. It was sent to Attorney General Beau Biden, Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, the NAACP and Dover attorney Steve Hampton.

In their complaint, the inmates state they want criminal charges brought against two guards and a sergeant  “who assaulted inmate Usef Dickerson on 11/11/09, in front of about 43 inmates on A-Tier.”

“We the inmates fear these two officers, and request that they be moved out of the building, that they do not retaliate against the inmates for writing this petition and the grievance that they have filed concerning this incident,” the grievance states.

According to the grievance form filed three days after the assault, which describes the type of incident as “ongoing,” the attack on Dickerson occurred around 1:30 p.m., when the three guards, “after an exchange of words grab (sic) inmate Usef Dickerson around the neck, forced him to the chow hall.”

There, the grievance states the guards, “violently punched and kicked inmate Dickerson to the body and about the head and face.”

The inmates report that guards on A-Tier frequently “invite” the inmates to “come off the tier for a physical confrontation.”

“These three officers constantly harass us and threaten us with bodily harm,” the report states. “Also, they talk about our dead family members, kids and say stuff like ‘tell your mother to s— my d—. Now, what are you going to do?’”

Neither Danberg nor Biden were willing to be interviewed for this story, or say whether they would protect the inmates from retaliation for coming forward.

In an e-mail, Biden’s spokesman Jason Miller said, “An assault on an inmate is a serious allegation. The Department of Correction maintains a process for reviewing such allegations and investigating if warranted.  The Department of Correction has informed us that they have initiated this process.”

SCI Deputy Warden G.R. Johnson was similarly certain the assault was being investigated. However, Johnson admitted he hadn’t seen the inmates’ grievance or any document ordering an inquiry.

“I feel confident it’s being investigated,” Johnson told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “That’s all I’m going to say on it.”

Dover attorney Steve Hampton has seen the results of numerous investigations by the DOC’s internal affairs unit. Few have resulted in discipline or charges.

“The IA investigators do the best with what they’re able to do, but they’re not arms-length from the warden and they’re under the control and oversight of the Attorney General’s office, who also represents the subjects of the investigations – the correctional officers and the wardens,” Hampton said. “It puts the IA investigators in a difficult spot. It’s difficult for them to do a truly independent investigation.”

Hampton pointed out that even if an IA investigation finds malfeasance or criminality, the investigators have no authority to prosecute the cases.

The bigger problem, Hampton said, is the “Culture of Silence” at SCI, also known as the “Blue Wall.” Guards at SCI, he said, will not report the misdeeds of their peers.

“Until they change the culture of silence, they’re not going to have any substantive changes down there,” he said. “The correctional officers don’t fear that anyone is going to do anything. They feel as if they have immunity to do whatever they want.”

Abusive history

SCI has a reputation for abuse, especially if the inmate is small, non-threatening and mentally or physically ill.

Dickerson stands 5-foot, 4-inches, suffers from severe asthma and weights 130 pounds.

In June, guards at the facility nearly beat Laurel businessman David Sully to death, by raining down blows to his head and face. Several wounds on Sully’s face required stitches to close. When he left the facility, he was covered with dye used in the guards’ pepper spray.

Despite horrific photos that chronicled the assault, Danberg said his guards did nothing wrong. He implied Sully had done something to merit the repeated beatings. Sully is 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.

Last month, Gianfranco Carta said guards at SCI shot pepper spray directly into his mouth, and then smacked his head into a concrete wall several times as he walked blindly down a hallway. Carta stands 5-feet, 7-inches and weighs 140 pounds.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit has said Carta’s story is “under investigation.”

In 2006, several guards attacked inmate David Kalm. Sometime during the assault, one of the guards shoved a nightstick or similar object down Kalm’s throat, tearing his trachea. Kalm is 5-feet, 7-inches and suffers from asthma, COPD and severe anxiety.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit investigated and found the guards did nothing wrong. Kalm has since sued the DOC. His case is pending. The guards – defendants in the civil suit – are represented by the Attorney General’s office, after the office concluded they did nothing to merit criminal charges.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright 2009 by the Caesar Rodney Institute

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According to the wife of the inmate suffering from the hole in his buttocks, which according to his medical records contains MRSA, Staph and other bacteria, the wound has now burrowed to a depth of six-inches, and the opening is as big as a silver dollar.

The Department of Correction, she said, will not discuss health care options with her or her husband.

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