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Delaware prison hostage situation linked to Trump, inmates say

Authorities negotiated into the evening for the release of the last two of four corrections department workers taken hostage by inmates at a Delaware prison, a move the inmates told a local newspaper was due to concerns about their treatment and the leadership of the United States.

All 4 corrections department workers taken hostage had been released Wednesday night

A prison guard stands at one of the towers at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. All Delaware prisons went on lockdown Wednesday when four corrections officers were taken hostage at the correctional centre in Smyrna. (Suchat Pederson/Associated Press)

Authorities negotiated into the evening for the release of the last two of four corrections department workers taken hostage by inmates at a Delaware prison.

Inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del., told a local newspaper that concerns about their treatment and the leadership of the United States had prompted their actions Wednesday.

The hostage situation drew dozens of officers and law enforcement vehicles and prompted a statewide lockdown of all prisons. One hostage was released Wednesday afternoon and another was released hours later.

A preliminary investigation suggests the disturbance began about 10:30 a.m. when a correctional officer inside Building C, which houses more than 100 inmates, radioed for immediate assistance, Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said. Other officers responded to help, and the employees were taken hostage, he said.

Bratz initially said five employees were taken hostage, but authorities at a later news conference said the number had been revised to four after one person thought to be among the hostages was found in another part of the prison.

Additionally, 46 inmates have been released from the building since the hostage situation began including 14 inmates who were released early Thursday, according to a news release from the Delaware Department of Correction.

Robert Coupe, secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said earlier 27 inmates had left the building over the course of the evening.

Authorities don't know "the dynamics of the takeover" or whether those inmates had been held against their will, Coupe said.

One of the freed employees was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, authorities said. The condition of the second wasn't immediately available.

Inmates contacted media

Earlier in the day, inmates reached out to the News Journal in Wilmington in two phone calls to explain their actions and make demands. Prisoners funnelled the calls to the paper with the help of one inmate's fiancée and another person's mother. The mother told the paper her son was among the hostages.

We know that the institution is going to change for the worse.- Inmate who contacted the News Journal

In that call, an inmate said their reasons "for doing what we're doing" included "Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he's doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse."

That caller said education for prisoners was the inmates' priority. They also said they want effective rehabilitation for all prisoners and information about how money is allocated to prisons.

Prison has volatile history

Video from above the prison Wednesday afternoon showed uniformed officers gathered in two groups along fences near an entrance to the prison. Later, video showed several people surrounding a stretcher and running as they pushed it across the compound. People could be seen standing near a set of doors with an empty stretcher and wheelchair.

According to the department's website, the prison is Delaware's largest correctional facility for men. It houses minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates, and also houses Kent County detainees awaiting trial.

The prison opened in 1971 and was the site of the state's death row and where executions were carried out.

In 2004, an inmate there raped a counsellor and took her hostage for nearly seven hours at the Smyrna prison, according to an Associated Press report at the time. A department sharpshooter later shot and killed 45-year-old Scott Miller, according to the report, ending the standoff.

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