JAMES T VAUGHN CORRECTIONAL CENTER
(formerly DELAWARE CORRECTIONAL CENTER)
1181 Paddock Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
WARDEN: Perry Phelps
DEPUTY WARDEN: Christopher Klein
DEPUTY WARDEN: David Pierce
The JTVCC is a Level 5 (prison) facility for men located near Smyrna, Delaware, in southern New Castle County. The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center is the state's largest adult, male correctional facility. Currently, JTVCC houses approximately 2,500 inmates. JTVCC houses minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates. JTVCC is also the primary facility for housing the Kent County pre-trial (detainee) population. It also houses inmates sentenced to the death penalty. Executions are carried out at the JTVCC.
JTVCC opened in 1971 with a capacity of 441. Expansions since then have increased the total bed capacity to over 2,600. In 1996, construction began on a $110 million, 888-bed addition. The expansion included 600 new maximum security cells, the addition of almost 26,000 linear feet (4.8 miles) of security fencing, the installation of 6 miles of razor wire, the construction of a new central tower and an additional perimeter tower, and the installation of new security cameras and enhanced observation points. The 600 maximum security cells have been constructed in six new housing units with 888 new beds. Three hundred cells have a single bed; 300 cells are double-bunked unless they are handicap-accessible in which case the cell is single bunked. All inmates are classified and assigned quality of life levels consistent with their criminal history, institutional behavior/history, threat to public safety and institutional safety and security, and program needs. The new addition houses the Security Housing Unit (SHU) and the Medium-High Housing Unit (MHU).
The SHU houses those inmates who have demonstrated that they cannot be housed in a lesser security setting and/or whose behavior and history are conducive to maximum security housing. In addition, inmates sentenced to the death penalty are housed in the Security Housing Unit. There are 300 cells in the SHU. Each cell is single-bunked. Inmates in the SHU are locked in their cells 23 hours a day. Inmates may use their one hour of out-of-cell time to shower and exercise. These inmates may have visitors, make telephone calls and have limited numbers of personal items in their cells including a radio, magazines, and books according to the inmate's assigned quality of life level. Inmates, other than those sentenced to the death penalty, may earn their way out of the SHU by exhibiting appropriate behavior, complying with institutional rules and participating in treatment, education, and/or work programs.
The MHU is a step down from the SHU and a step up from the general JTVCC population. Inmates in the MHU have more privileges than inmates in the SHU but fewer privileges than inmates in the general population. The MHU has 588 beds in 300 cells.
Inmates sentenced to the death penalty are housed at the James T Vaughn Correctional Center in the Security Housing Unit. Executions are carried out at JTVCC. Prior to the summer of 2000, lethal injection executions took place in a temporary, modular unit. The Department of Correction constructed a new lethal injection chamber in the summer of 2000. This new chamber is a permanent structure. In July 2003, the Department of Correction dismantled the State's only gallows because the last inmate in Delaware eligible to be executed by hanging won a new trial and life sentence.
JTVCC has several programs designed to rehabilitate the inmate including educational opportunities, vocational training, work assignments, spiritual/religious programs and a variety of other classes and programming.
The "Men With A Message" program: Inmates transcribe textbooks into Braille for use by visually-impaired students across the state of Delaware. In 1999, the program celebrated its 10th anniversary. Also in 1999, inmates in the program passed the 100,000-page landmark in transcribing text and graphics. Visually-impaired students are mainstreamed into the public school system and must have access to the same textbooks as their sighted peers. The "Men With A Message" program provides these textbooks for many students in elementary, middle and high schools, public and private, across the state. The educational experience is greatly enhanced for visually-impaired students to compete with their sighted peers. Inmates must complete 12 months of training to become certified in Braille by the Library of Congress. Two of the JTVCC participants are certified in the Braille code for math and science with one also being certified as a Nemeth proofreader. One of the JTVCC Braillists is trained in Spanish. Inmates in the program overwhelmingly cite making a contribution to society as their motivation for participating. The Braille program at JTVCC began in 1989 as a partnership between the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and the Division for the Visually Impaired.
The "Project Aware" program: The "Project Aware" program brings various groups of young people into the facility to meet with prison inmates. Some of these young people have exhibited problem behaviors at home, in school or in their neighborhoods or have been arrested for minor criminal activity. The goal of the program is to prevent young people from sinking into worse behaviors and criminal activity. Some of the students who visit Project Aware are members of high school and college classes interested in criminal justice. The inmates in the program talk to the groups about their criminal histories, their reasons for incarceration, and what prison life is like. The inmates also attempt to help the young people understand their negative behaviors by relating similar experiences. In the program, the inmates address the youth as a group. Some of the topics covered by the inmates are drugs & alcohol, peer pressure, negative attitudes, education, teen sex & pregnancy and family structure. Then, there is time set aside for inmates to meet one-on-one with the guests. "Project Aware" members must demonstrate positive behavior while in prison and must undergo five weeks of training. Members of "Project Aware" are not paid for their participation and receive no goodtime or gratuities. It is strictly volunteer work. "Project Aware" began in 1978. A group of inmates approached the Warden concerning racial conflict at a nearby high school. The inmates thought they might be able to make a difference if they had a chance to speak with the students. Although the inmates were not permitted to go to the school, the Warden agreed to let the students visit the inmates at JTVCC. The program takes place twice a week. Since 1978, the program has served thousands of young people from Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
The "Master Gardeners" program: The "Master Gardeners" program helps inmates better understand their past so they can live more fully in the present - and look toward a brighter future. The program uses the analogy of the garden to help inmates grow spiritually and psychologically. The program combines hands-on gardening, classroom discussion and scripture readings to promote positive growth. Inmate-gardeners work a quarter-acre vegetable, flower and herb garden with almost two-dozen varieties of plants. Lessons taught on how to tend a healthy garden are translated into lessons on how to grow to be better individuals. For example, SITE SELECTION: Just as the inmate-gardeners must select a desirable spot for their garden, they must recognize that the heart is the site where positive growth must take root. SOIL EVALUATION: Just as it is important to evaluate the chemical composition and inherited traits of the soil, it is important to evaluate the past and how it affects the present and future. SOIL ADDITIVES: Inmate-gardeners learn how fertilizers make soil better just as positive relationships can add quality to our lives. JTVCC's Chaplain began the program in 1993 with 12 inmates volunteering to take part. Today, approximately 50 inmates are involved in the program. In the United States, Master Gardeners began in 1972 when interest in home gardening mushroomed.
Various Treatment and Education Programs: Various programs are available to give the inmates the tools necessary to modify behavior and not only enable the inmate to live in the least restrictive security level possible while incarcerated but enable the inmate to return to society as a productive, law-abiding citizen. These programs include basic reading classes, high school diploma and GED classes, Sex Offender Treatment programs, Greentree (residential drug and alcohol treatment program), one-on-one counseling, group counseling, mental health intervention, etc.