Call to Support Dwayne & Jarreau of the Vaughn 17 at their sentencing, September 2019

Call to Support Dwayne & Jarreau of the Vaughn 17 at their sentencing, September 2019

by Coalition of Supporters to Free the #Vaughn17 and Bay View staff

1) Write today: Judge William C. Carpenter, Leonard L. Williams Justice Center, 500 North King St., Wilmington, DE 19801;

2) Rally Friday, Sept. 13, 9:30 a.m., Superior Court of Delaware, same address

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Everything about the #Vaughn17 sets them and their rebellion on an unusually high plane. At this stage, with two men having volunteered to take the fall for all of them, the heroism is historic, and the heroes deserve the strongest defense we can mount.

“On Feb. 1, [2017,] scores of men in Delaware’s largest prison, the Vaughn Correctional Center, took over one of the buildings in their facility. The prison, built in 1971 and known for its serious overuse of solitary confinement, is one of the state’s most severely overcrowded and punitive facilities,” wrote Heather Ann Thompson, historian and the author of “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy,” winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History, immediately after the rebellion.

Thompson continues: “Hoping to push the state to improve living conditions at Vaughn, the prisoners didn’t just take control of Building C – they also took guards hostage. And to make the public aware of why they were protesting, they called the media:

“’We’re trying to explain the reasons for doing what we’re doing. 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.’” They demanded only what they were entitled to: education and rehabilitation to enable them to prepare for their return to their communities, which will be stronger for their skills.


The night of Feb. 1, 2017, the prison was brightly lit during 18 hours of phone negotiations between the prisoners and prison officials. – Photo: News Journal

Eighteen prisoners in James T. Vaughn Prison were initially charged with multiple counts of murder, rioting, conspiracy and kidnapping. One of the initial suspects turned into a state star witness, and defendant Kelly Gibbs took his own life, leaving a letter of declaration.

Jarreau Ayers and Dwayne Staats, already incarcerated under the hopeless sentence of life without parole, took it upon themselves to admit to involvement to prevent the rest of their comrades being found unjustifiably guilty, which led to success – not guilty verdicts or their charges being dropped.

As their sentencing day is coming up, we are asking you on behalf of their families and our prison liberators to show up to court, hold signs in front of the court building on Sept. 13, and, most importantly and urgently, write to the judge right away. Please follow this advice as you write: Be professional, speak about their character, politely mention the not guilty verdicts and how the state dropped charges.

Here is the judge’s contact information: Judge William C. Carpenter, Leonard L. Williams Justice Center, 500 North King St., Wilmington, DE 19801.


Isaiah McCoy, formerly on death row, explains why prisoners at Vaughn have long known the prison is a powder keg.

Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers writes: “On Sept. 13, 2019, myself along with our Comrade Dwayne Staats, the only two to be found guilty for the riot that occurred on Feb. 1 of 2017 at James T. Vaughn Prison that left one correctional officer (CO) dead, will be called before the ‘courts,’ a conduit for this white supremacist totalitarian government in the occupied territory of Wilmington, Delaware, for purposes no other than what Ms. Assata Shakur correctly identified as a public lynching.

“We ask that you support us with your presence to make it abundantly clear to the authoritarian tyrants that they are being watched. That myself along with our comrade Dwayne Staats will NEVER be left alone, allowing this system to psychologically torture and isolate us to the point of mental deterioration.

“I ask that you stand with us in solidarity as a clear acknowledgement that we the people determine what’s right and just. That we the people find that the actions of those who stood for the people of oppression on Feb. 1, 2017, were righteous and just and deserve to be commended, not condemned.

“We ultimately ask that you support us with your presence as a clear signal to those comrades not born yet or who are just consciously coming of age that when you take action for your beliefs, our collective beliefs, and are no longer just an orator of beautiful ideals, you won’t be abandoned! That regardless of the hardships – time, distance or enormity of the enemy – we will stand unflinchingly in solidarity!”


In a photo taken in 2016, Dwayne Staats gets a visit from his son. Despite their sentences of Life Without Parole, Dwayne Staats and Jarreau Ayers are men with families and communities who need them. The dreaded LWOP sentences are being challenged all over the country and may become history soon, giving these prisoners and thousands more a chance to return home at last.

Several Vaughn prisoners wrote to the Bay View immediately after the rebellion, their accounts published that month. One was DeShawn Drumgo Sr., cousin of Soledad Brother Fleeta Drumgo, who wrote: “For years I have tried to make the world aware of the injustices, racial indifference and torment that I and 300 to 500 others have suffered in this torture chamber known as the SHU. I myself have spent almost a decade in the SHU, and often I put packets together for the House of Representatives, the mayor, the governor, the president of the USA, telling them that Vaughn Prison is raising monsters! …

“Delaware’s top brass turned out to shed tears, ring bells, salute, apologize and give medals to the family of the fascist correctional officer who died. But there were no tears shed, bells run, salutes, apologies nor medals given to the families of Jason Cunningham, killed by corrections officers here at JTVCC, nor for Ronald Shoup, killed by DOC, nor Arias nor Blaise P. DeJesus, Anthony Pierce or Jermaine Lamar Wilson, who lost their lives in the torture chambers of the SHU.”

Christopher West wrote then: “The actual cause of the revolt was the oppressive conditions prisoners at JTVCC have faced for years.

“SHU prisoners being allowed out of their cells for only three hours a week is one example. And there are no meaningful opportunities for self-improvement.

“They also tried to portray Floyd as a great correctional officer and hero, when in fact everyone knows he was a coward who sadistically targeted and oppressed his own (Black) people.

“As the lawsuits fly and truth gets twisted, let us hope true justice will prevail for us, the oppressed slave class.”

In a story headlined “Why the Vaughn 17 case matters to us all,” by Shandra Delaney, mother of one of the Dallas 6, who fought riot charges in Pennsylvania for seven years and finally prevailed, she reports that Delaware has admitted to the intolerable conditions and treatment of prisoners that sparked their rebellion:

“Patricia May, a prison counselor who was taken hostage and released unharmed [during the rebellion], told officials: “Inmates in the Delaware prison are sorely in need of better conditions, counseling and programs to help them rehabilitate. … [T]he state is jailing prisoners for ‘way too long’ and corrections officials are ‘antiquated in our thinking about treatment.’ They have to take these reforms seriously. If you take all their (inmates’) hope away, what do they have left?

“Delaware’s Governor Carney ordered an independent review of Vaughn Correctional Center, and it was found that there was overcrowding, understaffing, mismanagement, poor communication, a culture of negativity and adversarial relationships among prison staff, administrators and inmates.”


To give you more insight into the character of Dwayne Staats, here is a drawing he sent to the Bay View in 2015 with this message: “This illustration depicts the nature of a one-sided war that has long been waged by Amerikkka’s oppressive machine against Blacks. Every time we ask for peace, justice and equality, our answer comes in the form of another murder. Why must we be so naïve to think that these same devils that created this hell for us will ever turn the heat down!” – Art: Dwayne Staats, NT0000, 10745 Route 18, Albion PA 16475

In “Smyrna 17: Trials of Delaware ‘riot leaders’ begin Oct. 8,” Luis Sierra, one of the defendants, wrote as the trials were about to begin in 2018:

“To touch on the transpirations since being wrongfully accused of those charges, not only have we become enemies of the state of Delaware, but we’ve been heavily targeted and retaliated against by correctional officers. The following atrocities are what we’ve been experiencing on a day to day basis: opened legal mail, untimely regular mail, unfollowed policies, tampered food, lack of medical treatment, lack of mental health care, disconnected phone calls, unsanitary shower, solitary confinement, neglect, falsified infractions, cancelled visitation (legal, too), physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and all forms of unprofessionalism in its entirety.

“Those conditions are far from exaggerated and quite difficult to live under, especially with this case we have being held over our heads. Despite not allowing their stratagems and tactics to turn us against each other and affect our focus on beating this case, it’s evident that they’re doing whatever in their power to provoke us and get that violent reaction to support the narrative they’ve created against us as ‘cop killers.’ …

“Now what we can’t control is the media spreading this propaganda about us being cop killers based upon our previous convictions. That’s not cool. Nor can we control those pro-police protesters who are going to be inside and outside of the courthouse campaigning that we get convicted regardless of the insufficiency of the evidence.”

The same scene is likely Sept. 13. If you possibly can, be there … and bring a crowd. Pack the courtroom!

Contact the Coalition of Supporters to Free the #Vaughn17 at Vaughn17@protonmail.com or by going to the Facebook event page, at https://www.facebook.com/events/510763023063626/. Bay View staff contributed to this report.

Posted By

R Totale
Aug 28 2019 20:53

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  • We ultimately ask that you support us with your presence as a clear signal to those comrades... who are just consciously coming of age, that when you take action for your beliefs, our collective beliefs and are no longer just an orator of beautiful ideals, you won’t be abandoned!

    Jarreau Ayers

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R Totale
Sep 9 2019 19:00

Replaced the original short write-up with this longer one that quotes Jarreau Ayers' statement in full, because it felt worth having this more detailed article but it'd seem like pointless duplication to have both.