SHOULD DELAWARE BE TRUSTED WITH ACA ACCREDITATION?
Most penologists agree that Delaware's prison system is one of the most backwards and corrupt in America. Because it cloaks itself behind a virtual nylon curtain, few Americans know much about Delaware's system of corruption, political incest, racial suppression and backroom skullduggery that political insiders laughingly call "the Delaware Way."
But for people plowed under the Delaware Way, it is anything but a laughing matter.
Inmate Cliff Miller isn't laughing because Cliff is dead. On a freezing and snowy January night in 1976 vigilantes and guards dragged Cliff from his job at the prison power plant into the woods outside the prison fence. In the thick forestry of the woods they beat, shot, mutilated and murdered Cliff Miller and left his body in the freezing snow to become food for hungry wild animals.
Although a coalition of Smyrna guards and vigilantes, led by a then captain and future warden, carried out the murder, the killers were protected and shielded by the state Attorney General, Richard Wier, the state police, and medical examiners in other words, the Delaware Way.
How did Cliff Miller, a model prisoner who went on near weekly furloughs, run afoul of the Delaware Way?
Miller tried to blow the whistle on a Delaware scam to get $10 million in federal grant money to build a state of the art water treatment facility but had actually simply dug a big hole in the ground so they could pocket all the loot.
Miller is long dead but the hole in the ground still exists outside W-Building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. On a hot summer day you have to cover your nose to avoid the near choking stench of the toxic excrement of 3000 prisoners and more than 100 guards.
The official story is that Miller decided to escape in the wee hours of the snowy morning, during a blizzard, and ran coatless through the woods on one of the coldest nights of the year. No one bothered to explain why Miller, an exceedingly intelligent man, didn't wait to pull his escape in a couple of days when he was already approved to go home on a three day furlough.
Very smart people have agreed that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. It might, therefore, make sense to review how Delaware's criminal justice barons have behaved, especially when free (or stolen) money is on the table.
In the 1970s Delaware prisons were headed by Acting Commissioner Paul Keve, but the real power behind the throne was a man named James T. Vaughn. Vaughn had seized control of something called the Board of Corrections, a board whose main log was to hire and fire the commissioner. After Vaughn got Keve removed he appointed himself to be the new commissioner.
Like any true Delaware "public servant", Vaughn had his mind on his money and his money on his mind.
But Vaughn wasn't stupid. He knew he had to share the wealth with some often illiterate Delaware legislators as all as with a few of his former colleagues in the state police and his new buddies in the office of the Attorney General.
With the help of Senator Bill Roth and Junior Senator Joe Biden, Vaughn got a blessing of millions of dollars in federal grant money for Delaware to start a prison industries and to construct three buildings to house those industries.
Vaughn hired a Hawaiian named Dace Kalili to act as front man for prison industries. Only one building was actually used... to be where a few inmates sand papered old chairs.
"I am going to get you out of prison," Kalili boldly told his desperate inmate employees. "Trust me."
One of the inmates who trusted him was Bill Bailey. Bill would never enjoy Kalil's promise of freedom. Image, Bill was executed by hanging while Warden (and former captain) Robert Snyder cracked jokes about pardons a moment before he gave the order to let the floor drop out from under Bailey's jerking feet. Bill's last dancer occurred less than 100 yards away from the shithole that led to the state-sanctioned murder of Cliff Miller a few years before.
Inmates would later prevail in court to have the warehouses closed down. A hundred prisoners would be released. In came carpetbagger Mary McDonough from Community Legal Aide Society to represent the inmates, pro bono. Not well read in the classics, the inmates didn't know they should beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
McDonough, who'd been chased out of the prison years before for selling out her incarcerated clients did it again. She petitioned the court to stay (I.e., delay) its order because, she asserted, the prison officials had shown good faith.
The prisoners remain warehouses to this day but McDonough was rewarded for her sellout with a job with Senator Roth in Washington, then returned to Delaware to work, wait for it, for the Attorney General she "opposed" when she lawyered for the prisoners, and most recently she got appointed by Gov. John Carney to be a Delaware judge.
Ain't no way like the Delaware way!
The $24 million chronic care unit
With the guidance of Senators Biden and Carper (who originally got elected to congress by the efforts of prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families) the Delaware prison system got their hands on a $24 million federal grant to build a chronic care unit. Instead, they stole the money and stuck all the old, sick inmates onto filthy, mold infested F-tier in D-Building.
Double-bunked, many of the old men couldn't even get to the top bunk and the prison officials refused to install ladders for them.
Only after some, including an old white inmate affectionately known as Uncle Dutch, died from beatings by guards (elderly abuse), medical neglect and falls to the cement floor from the dreaded top bunks was the F-tier chronic care scam rebranded and relocated.
The tender hearted prison barons moved the sick old fellows to, wait for it, the same old warehouses originally known as P.I. 1 and 2. P.I. stands for Prison Industries. The warehouses were renamed T-1 and T-2. and were declared to be "state of the art chronic care facilities ."
During the Obama administration, thanks largely to the usual suspects (now vice President) Joe Biden, Tom Carpet and new comer Chris Coons, Delaware received scores of millions of federal dollars for the POPS program (supposedly to release older prisoners), the Re-entry Program, and to be one of six fortunate States specially chosen to provide and test drive "innovative rehabilitation programs."
Delaware then received federal money to address racial disparity in sentencing.
After pocketing their filthy lucre, Delaware decided not one man in the whole state was eligible for POPS.
The reentry program held a few classes for a very few inmates and then gave out a brief list of agencies like the welfare office, called itself I-ADAPT and that was just about the end of reentry.
Nothing came of either the racial disparity in sentencing scam or the innovative rehabilitation scam except that a few Black Delawareans for a chance to look at Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine and former Chief Deputy Attorney General Bartholomew Barton in the very flesh. Only a very few noted the irony that the two people most responsible for racial disparity in sentencing were now anointed to correct it.
With the cash now evaporated, Strine is nowhere to be found. After failing to get enough legislative votes for him to single handedly rewrite Delaware's criminal code -- a blatant violation of separation of powers -- Strine, like Elvis, has left the building.
Putting the squeeze on Delaware taxpayers, the Department of Correction spent over a year "assessing the individual rehabilitation needs of every offender" so it could devise "individualized programs to meet each prisoners' unique needs and circumstances.". Translation: take the money and run.
Of course it turned out to be just another scam. Not one program was created pursuant to the assessment hustle and the few existing ones were shut down. Treatment at the prison named after James T. Vaughn is nothing more than a chance for counselors to hang out, gossip and occasionally score a date.
George Mason University was contracted by Commissioner Robert Coupe to provide treatment. That was years ago. That commissioner is now hustling the Delaware Department of Homeland Security and nobody has pain an eye upon George Mason or Barbara Mason either.
Coupe also hosted a phoney culinary arts graduation in a building that had been empty of students and students who hadn't spent a minute studying culinary anything. The lap dog Delaware media dutifully published the hoax.
Hooray for the new boss, same as the old boss?
Delaware's new commissioner, Claire DeMatteis, use to be Joe Biden's chief of staff. She knows how to sniff out a dollar. She's gung ho about getting ACA accreditation.
But to many people ACA accreditation sounds a lot like a pay to play scheme and more than a little like a protection racket.
Here's how it goes. A corrupt gangster state like Delaware pays the ACA to give the the Food Gulag Seal of Approval which then opens the door for untold millions of federal grant money as well as private foundation (tax write off) money. The corrupt state then has to pay "dues" (kickbacks) to the ACA to keep its hustle going.
To put on a convincing ACA minstrel show, prisoners were made temp workers and ordered to paint over deadly black mold with ugly grey paint, to spit shine once asbestos-covered floors and to paint happy art scenes on prison walls. Yassa, Massa ACA, we sho is happy here on Good Massa Delaware's plantation. Yassa, we sho is.
If the ACA is smarter than it is greedy, it should be extremely wary of dancing the Delaware way. Messing around with crooks like those could cost the ACA the remaining piece of its dwindling respect and prestige.
Its like the elders use to say: You lie with dogs you pick up fleas.
THAT'S the Delaware Way.