Cape Gazette

Prison boot camp program on hold

Investigations following officer's arrest will determine program's fate
By Melissa Steele | Dec 09, 2013
Source: Department of Corrections Boot camp participants line up at Sussex Correctional Institution.

Operation of a prison boot camp in Sussex County has been suspended after a guard in the porgram was charged with having sex with three women inmates.

Department of Corrections spokesman John Painter said the program was put on hold Nov. 27 and will remain suspended until administrative and internal investigations into the program are completed.

“There's a chance the program can come back, but because there is so much activity and investigation right now, the commissioner halted the program,” Painter said.

The corrections department moved 35 inmates out of the boot camp facility, which served inmates statewide, and returned them to level 5 prisons throughout the state, depending where they were incarcerated before enrolling in the boot camp program.

In March, Commissioner Robert Coupe was sworn in as head of the department; he began a process of review to determine whether programs are effective, Painter said.

The arrest of prison boot camp officer Christopher Peck Nov. 20 put the program at the head of the review process, Painter said.

“It definitely played a factor in the decision,” he said.

Peck was charged with 11 counts of sexual relations in a detention facility for allegedly having sexual relations with three woman – ages 19, 27 and 28. He was committed to Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna in default of $22,000 secured bond.

In 2012, a correctional officer was charged in connection with having a sexual relationship with a 22-year-old woman in the work-release program at the Sussex prison. That case, against Daniel Man, was dismissed in January after prosecutors could not locate the woman.

Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack said police have concluded their investigation into Peck and identified only three women in the case. However, if new information arises, he said, police would reopen the investigation.

Painter said the department is conducting an administrative review of the boot camp along with an internal affairs investigation. Correctional officials will use the police report with its in-house investigations to determine the fate of the boot camp, he said.

Delaware started the military-style boot camp in 1997 to help ease prison overcrowding, according to a state website. Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown housed the boot camp, which accepted men and women serving sentences for nonviolent crimes or probation violations. First-time drug offenders also were allowed to participate in boot camp, if they chose.

A 2007 report on the boot camp prepared by the Office of Management and Budget's Statistical Analysis Center gave the program credit for reducing recidivism among participants. Before 2005, the annual recidivism rate for participants was 74 percent; after 2005, it dropped to 55 percent, the study noted.

“The latest review has shown promising results indeed,” the report stated.

In a Cape Gazette article published in October, a boot camp official said recidivism among participants remained low.

State reviews preceding the 2007 report, however, reported disappointing results for the boot camp, comparable to poor results in national studies.

With three investigations going on, Painter said, the commissioner decided to suspend the program. “Let them run the course and then decide where we want to go,” he said.

Painter said there is no time-frame to decide the future of the boot camp.

“We'll use the police investigation in conjunction with the other two and figure out where we'll go,” he said.

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