DOVER, Del. (AP) — An attorney who helped lead prison reform efforts after a deadly inmate riot has been tapped by Delaware Gov. John Carney to head the state's corrections system.
Carney announced Tuesday that he is nominating Claire DeMatteis to replace Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps.
Phelps plans to retire July 15 following a brief tenure marked by the February 2017 riot, lawsuits alleging mistreatment of inmates and chronic staffing and morale problems.
"I have full confidence that Claire's experience and leadership qualities will serve our state well at the Department of Correction," Carney said in a prepared statement.
Last month, Carney declined to express confidence in Phelps amid allegations that contract prison medical workers were falsifying inmate treatment records.
DeMatteis said her top priority would be safety and security in DOC facilities for staff, inmates and members of the public. She also acknowledged that ensuring safety and security depends on maintaining adequate staffing.
As of Tuesday, there were 188 vacancies in the correctional officer ranks statewide, including 75 vacancies at the maximum-security James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. That's down from about 260 vacancies a year after the riot, and 237 vacancies reported in November, when DOC officials said they were transferring up to 330 prisoners from Vaughn to facilities in Pennsylvania in an effort to reduce overtime for understaffed correctional officers.
Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said Tuesday that overtime hours are down, and that much of the overtime is to cover for staffers who are receiving training.
Klopp welcomed DeMatteis' appointment, saying she has the right skill set to lead the corrections system.
All contents © copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.