After a deadly hostage standoff at a Delaware prison this month, about three dozen workers, including nurses and correctional officers, have resigned, increasing pressure on a penitentiary already struggling with staffing shortages, the Wall Street Journal reports. A union representing Delaware prison workers has complained that top state officials haven’t done enough to address chronic prison staffing shortages. Personnel shortages at prisons are a serious challenge around the U.S., raising safety risks. Since the incident that left one correctional officer dead at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, 29 contract medical workers have resigned, including eight registered nurses, 11 licensed practical nurses and three nurse practitioners, said Jayme Gravell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction. In addition, eight correctional officers have resigned, and 10 officers—six of whom were assigned to Vaughn—have submitted their retirement paperwork, as has one teacher.
The department loses 11 correctional officers a month on average. “These retirements cannot be directly attributed to the hostage event in Smyrna,” she said. A mix of high prison populations and stressful working conditions make it hard to maintain adequate prison staffing around the nation. Homicides among prison workers are relatively rare while violent injuries are more common, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prison workers accounted for one third of all violent injuries among state government workers that year, the bureau said. In Delaware, Republican state Sen. Dave Lawson has proposed using overtime funds to boost pay at the Department of Correction as a way to improve recruitment and retention.