Documents from the 2017 Vaughn Uprising

Support Vaughn Prisoners

A collection of documents related to the February 2017 Vaughn uprising in Delaware, when inmates rose up in a rebellion against both their immediate living conditions and the beginning of Donald Trump's presidency.

Submitted by R Totale on June 21, 2018

For further information on the Vaughn Uprising, listen to the audio interview with Thomas Gordon available here.
The attachments to this post are a poster about ways to support the Vaughn 17, and a zine, "Live from the Trenches", in which the Vaughn inmates speak out in their own words.

As of June 2019, the Vaughn 17 were held at the following addresses:

Pedro Chairez
SBI# 00697878
Date of birth: 08/17/1975
Contact address as of March 2020:
Pedro Chairez Y35814
Pontiac C.C.
P.O. Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

Janiis Mathis
Date of birth: 04/24/1992
Contact address as of March 2021:
Smart Communications / PA DOC
Janis Mathis – NU0423
SCI Greene
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL, 33733

Jarreau Ayers
SBI# 294204
Date of birth: 06/15/1981
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications/PADOC
Jarreau Ayers, NS9994
SCI Huntingdon
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Obadiah Miller - Released!

Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz
SBI# 00515700
Date of birth: 12/17/1989
Contact address as of December 2020:
Smart Communications/PADOC
Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz, NW2883
SCI Mahanoy
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Deric Forney
SBI# 00485314
Date of birth: 02/06/1989
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications/PADOC
Deric Forney, NS2698
SCI Coal Township
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Jonathan Rodriguez
SBI# 00593313
DOB: 12/31/1991
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications / PA DOC
Jonathan Rodriguez – NU0434
SCI Houtzdale
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL, 33733

Roman Shankaras - released!

Corey Smith
SBI# 00456039
Date of birth: 07/14/1985
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications / PA DOC
Corey Smith – NU0456
SCI Camp Hill
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL, 33733

Kelly Gibbs (RIP) - Deceased
Date of birth: 10/01/1988

Dwayne Staats
SBI# 467005
Date of birth: 11/10/1981
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications/PADOC
Dwayne Staats, NT0000
SCI Albion
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Luis Sierra
(Abdul-Haqq El-Qadeer)
SBI# 00455723
Date of birth: 02/19/1986
Contact address as of June 2019:
James T. Vaughn Correctional Center
1181 Paddock Rd
Smyrna, DE 19977

Lawrence Michaels
SBI# 630903
Date of birth: 08/14/1986
Contact address as of July 2020:
Smart Communications / PA DOC
Lawrence Michaels – NW2894
SCI Smithfield
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Robert Hernandez
SBI# 00643521
Date of birth: 09/25/1981
Contact address as of August 2019:
Robert Hernandez, #55368
Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 639
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88004

John Bramble
SBI# 450202
Date of birth: 09/01/1989
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications/PADOC
John Bramble, NT0282
SCI Rockview
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Kevin Berry
SBI# 00496645
Date of birth: 07/17/1990
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications/PADOC
Kevin Berry, NT0583
SCI Benner Township
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Abednego Baynes
SBI# 00582322
Date of birth: 05/20/1992
Contact address as of June 2019:
Smart Communications/PADOC
Abednego Baynes, NT0594
SCI Frackville
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733


VAUGHN-PRINT.pdf (14.15 MB)
VAUGHN-READ.pdf (2.16 MB)



5 years 2 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Reddebrek on April 24, 2019

Just want to say I really appreciate your contributions on prisoner organising.

R Totale

5 years 2 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on April 24, 2019

Thanks, glad to know someone reads them!


4 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Sike on August 13, 2019

R Totale

Thanks, glad to know someone reads them!

Yeah, this is really a great contribution. Thanks.

R Totale

4 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on January 26, 2020

By the way, there's a new Vaughn 17 site up at:

R Totale

3 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on July 3, 2021

New video from two of the Vaughn 17 defendants:

The Movement: Silent No More

A short article on the Vaughn uprising by Vaughn inmate Fenel Baine.

Submitted by R Totale on June 21, 2018

The time has arrived. The smoke has cleared. The dust has settled. The hopeless have found their voice and we’re saying “NO MORE!” No more oppression. No more injustice. No more lynching. No more trampling our inalienable rights underfoot. No more putting our mothers and children through this misery and leaving our families to fend for themselves in a cold, cruel world. No more.

We hostages of James T. Vaughn Correctional Center have taken upon ourselves to take a stand and speak up and speak out about the systemic abuses that we suffer from everyday under the iron hand of Delaware’s criminal justice system. This system is arrogantly racist, brutally oppressive, and blatantly disregards the natural endowment of human right. These people piss on the constitution in this state. Fundamental rights are discretional privileges at their expanse that they withhold from the poor, the minority, and anyone who isn’t tied to their corrupt system of things.

For too long Delaware has been carrying out Jim Crow-era practices against defendants charged with offenses in this state. This state has THE WORSE criminal justice system in the country and has done an immaculate job hiding under a cloak of secrecy for too long. Their scheme is so sophisticated that even states it shares a border with are oblivious to their order. Defendants in this state (especially African-Americans), are stripped of any right afforded by our constitution once they are thrust into Delaware’s gallows as enemies of the state. We are tossed into Kangaroo Courts without a shred of due process in front of racist juries who only know one word: GUILTY. We are pressured into taking plea bargains regardless of our guilt or innocence–with the threat of losing trial and receiving life or death sentences. Our attorney’s act as prosecutors who coerce us into signing our lives away with outrageous plea-bargains, without lifting a finger to fight for our liberty.

Once we are inevitably convicted, we are over-sentenced by racist judges who punish us for exercising our constitutional rights to a trial, for “wasting their time.” From there we are tossed on prison plantations under the authority of racist correctional officers who further punish and oppress at their discretion. Correctional facilities (which should be property called corruption facilities), focus solely on the “punitive” aspect of the equation with no attempt to include the more important “rehabilitative” approach. This is properly shown by the ultra-high recidivism rates in this state. The convicted are legally castrated and stripped of any protections they may have–if any–that the courts didn’t take already.

We are warehoused and caged with hardly any access to any rehabilitative or educational programs. We work for slave wages and are aggressively punished for the slightest infractions. For example: Having more than 4 pair of socks or boxers is considered a violation subject to disciplinary action. Having over 5 books to educate yourself or extra soap to clean yourself is also considered a violation. The disciplinary process is a replica of the trial process in our courts, in which the accused are convicted without the benefit of due process. Once convicted you are relocated to maximum security, the prison’s “SHU” system, which is in effect, a prison within a prison. Guards beat and kill inmates, medical staff kills inmates–through inadequate care, medical malpractice, and misdiagnosis–and any bureaucratic oversight and regulation is virtually non-existent. Couple this with outdated infrastructure, molded showers and cells, a destructive diet over-saturated with processed carbs–and you began to understand why the majority of the population is laden with health problems, ranging from diabetes to all forms of cancer.

No more. Today we take a stand. Our families will be our representatives who will take our call for Justice to the mountaintops. They will be our ambassadors in this noble fight. We will push, we will pull, we will scream, we will march and protest. We will demand our place since power concedes nothing without demand. The kingdom suffers violence, but the violent take it by force. We’re done making excuses, now it’s time we make history.


From the Vaughn Prison Uprising: “For a Safer, More Secure, and More Humane Prison”

An open letter from Thomas Gordon, who was an inmate at the Vaughn Correctional Center during the uprising, to the warden.

Submitted by R Totale on June 21, 2018

To: Warden Parker, James T. Vaughn Correction Center

From: Thomas Gordon #455684

Re: Human Rights

It is imperative upon those of us who fight monsters to do everything in our power to not become one in the process.


To those of you who deny us our human rights in order to feel secure, you deserve neither humanity nor security.


What happened in C-Building was both tragic and inevitable. Only those who were blind or naïve can claim that they did not see that incident coming. It was not sparked by any one event, but by a series of events, that with time began to slowly boil over.

Due to the conditions of this prison and the treatment of those held within it, it was only a matter of time before we (as I stand in solidarity with them) were forced to take actions into our own hands. Our attempts at diplomacy were ignored, our pleas for help fell on deaf ears. There was no other way for you to know our struggle, for you to acknowledge our plight. What had to be done was done.

No one wants for this type of incident to happen again. No one wanted this to happen in the first place. We all have a duty and a moral obligation to insure that what occurred never occurs again. To do that we must first realistically address the issues that brought us to this point.

We, as inmates, know that when we are incarcerated, we lose certain “civil” rights. What we do not lose and what should not be taken away from us are our “human” rights. Under no circumstances should we be treated as less than human beings, nor shall we be expected to settle for such treatment.

We do not want the keys to the prison. What we want is fairness, impartiality, transparency, and humane treatment. Below you will find a list of our fair requests that will help you all in your goal of making this a safer, more secure, and more humane prison. I hope that you consider all of these points sincerely.

On behalf of my brothers in the struggle.

In struggle and solidarity,

Thomas Gordon

For a Safer, More Secure, and More Humane Prison

On Behalf of the Prisoners at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center

March 8, 2017 – Smyrna, Delaware

Below you will find a list of our fair and reasonable requests that will help you in your goal of making the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center a safer, more secure, and more humane prison.

We hope that you consider all of these points sincerely.

We respectfully request:

Human Rights. Everything on this list can be placed under this one category. We want human rights, decent treatment, respect as men, and to be treated fairly.

Food. We would like to be properly fed and to receive bigger portions at all meals. We would like an end to the “heart healthy diet”1 and for all foods to be removed from the menu when it is clear that the majority of prisoners do not eat it. The Delaware Department of Corrections throws away a ton of food on a daily basis. There is no reason that not only could our portions be bigger but that the prison could pass out seconds and thirds as well. We therefore request: 1) larger portions; 2) an end to the “heart healthy diet”; 3) “seconds and thirds call” at the chow hall until any food that would be thrown away is eaten, with each tier rotating on days to eat last; and 4) an end to using food as punishment by attempting to starve people into submission, especially in the Solitary Housing Unit (SHU).

Access to Programs. There are extremely limited program options for the inmates in this prison, to the point that if you are not a drug addict or a sex offender there is really nothing for you. We want better programming opportunities for all prisoners. We also want an end to the sham practice of handing out “program packets” to the individuals housed in the SHU and Maximum Security (MAX). All prisoners should be afforded the opportunity to receive adequate programming. An area shall be set aside (such as the visiting room and Bldg. 20 holding cells for the inmates in MAX/SHU) for them to receive such programming from a counselor or other party approved to run such programs or groups.

Education. Education should be afforded to all inmates no matter what their classification status. Even if it is provided through “In House Mail” courses for those inmates housed in the SHU/MAX. The Department of Corrections should hire the teachers needed to ensure that this gets done. Education, just like programming, should not be a privilege to be stripped away. It should be our right.

Visits. The Delaware DOC should afford inmates with more opportunities to have visits with their families and loved ones and should eliminate hurdles placed in the way of our support groups who come to show us their love by visiting us. To do this, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center should: 1) offer visiting schedules equal to or greater than those offered at Sussex Correctional Institute (SCI); 2) Tear down the wall in the visiting room, which is there to cause not only a physical separation, but a psychological separation as well; and 3) allow inmates to hold the hands of their visitors above tables and to give longer hugs. Our family and loved ones are our greatest deterrent against both prison re-entry and prison misconduct, so why would you hinder us from having ample contact with them? JTVCC should follow SCI’s example in this department as they do a better job at running visits fairly and humanely.

Better Pay. All inmates employed by JTVCC should be given a pay increase of at least 5 dollars a month. It is still slave labor, but this will at least allow even the lowest paying job to get more than 24 soups, 2 bars of soap, and a writing tablet a month. Inmate workers should also be paid “overtime” equal to that in the real world, which is “time and a half.”

Fair and Impartial Disciplinary Hearings. The entire disciplinary process at JTVCC is old and outdated. Furthermore, it is widely known that Lt. Savage is incapable of conducting fair and impartial hearings. Not only should Lt. Savage be removed from this position, but the way hearings are conducted should be changed completely. We believe that disciplinary hearings should be conducted by a “board” of 3-5 DOC staff of the rank of Lieutenant or higher along, with 1 mental health clinician and 1 DOC Counselor. All parties should hear all of the evidence for and against the inmate and then make a joint decision with any dissenting opinions written down along with the majority’s ruling for the inmate. Appeals should also be run in the same manner, except that the board of DOC staff should have at least a rank of Staff Lieutenant, along with 1 Captain and the Warden or his/her designee.

A Fair and Impartial Grievance Process. JTVCC has a hidden policy to hinder inmates from receiving remedies for issues and incidents that should be grievable, by deeming such grievances as “non-grievable” when filed or returning them “unprocessed.” This practice has to stop! Our grievance process is our only in-house recourse for a lot of issues and it should work smoothly. In order to do this:

“Requests” should be allowed to be processed by the grievance office and should not be returned as “unprocessed.” Currently, any grievance that staff doesn’t want to go through is thrown out as a “request.” Deeming grievances “non-grievable“ or “unprocessed” due to them being “requests” is the most abused process in the JTVCC’s grievance policy. It actually even goes against the written language of the grievance since for remedies you are clearly asked “Action requested by grievant”. Your grievance should not be deemed non-grievable nor returned unprocessed simply because you make a “request”. This has to stop.

“Staff issues” should be grievable issues as well. The current policy of having inmates write the Staff Lt. or the Warden is a flawed policy since neither the Warden nor the Staff Lt. everrespond to such writings. Staff issues should be allowed to be grieved and anygrievances against staff alleging “misuse of force” or “prisoner abuse” should be investigated by an Internal Affairs Officer. The DOC should hire the appropriate officers to ensure that this is done.

All grievances alleging misuse of force or prisoner abuse should be deemed an “Emergency Grievance” and should be treated as such. You cannot expect safety and security for yourselves when we are being denied the same.

Internal Affairs should keep officer files detailing allegations of misuse of force or prisoner abuse against inmates when alleged against said officer. These files shall include all such grievances against an officer, no matter the outcome of the grievance investigation. This is needed in order to show a pattern of abuse and excessive force. There are severalofficers who are widely known by both inmates and staff to regularly use excessive force and abuse inmates. These officers should be disciplined by the DOC when it is readily apparent that they have a pattern for such behavior.

Transparency. Once a year, the DOC should publish a “pie-chart” in the prisoner newspaper detailing how the money allocated to the prison is being spent. It should also include a separate chart detailing how the money earned in commissary is being spent. We believe that we have a right to know these things. This issue is highly important to us.

Mental Health. The abuse, mistreatment and punishment of individuals seeking mental health treatment needs to stop, along with the Mental Health Director Lezley Sexton’s allowance and support of such actions. Lezley Sexton and DOC’s policy of using medication as a punishment also needs to stop. The treatment of mental health prisoners and prisoners seeking mental health treatment in this prison has been nothing less than cruel and appalling! This has to stop.

New Appointment of personnel. We are calling for the appointment of a new Commissioner, Warden and Deputy Warden.A lot of us watched this prison take a turn for the worse under the authority of the now acting Commissioner Perry Phelps. We believe that a lot of our in-house grievances began with his appointment as Warden. He is therefore unfit to change a system that he destroyed. To allow him to continue carrying on would be the equivalent of allowing a wolf to herd the sheep. Deputy Warden Scarborough should also be replaced. He is also a part of the problem, and indeed one of the main reasons, that inmates seeking mental health support are mistreated and punished. It is widely known that those are his personal policies. We also call for the ouster of the acting warden if he is unwilling to institute the fair changes listed herein, as such an unwillingness can only lead to more problems.

Regular Rotation of Staff. We are asking that staff be rotated to new buildings and new duties every 3-6 months. This allows us all a chance to have a break from each other and to give any possible tensions a chance to cool down before they boil over. This will also allow the DOC the opportunity to “follow the paper trail” of certain Correctional Officers who have a pattern of mistreatment and abuse towards inmates and therefore will give the DOC the chance to place such staff on duties away from any prisoners before things get messy.

“Stingers.” Stingers should be sold on commissary as they are in most other jails or boiling water should be provided to all inmates, including those housed in MAX/SHU, by increasing the temperature of the hot water in our cell/building sinks so that it is adequate enough to cook food and heat coffee. If “stingers” are not sold on commissary, then they should be reduced to a Class 2 Infraction.

Access to shaving supplies. Inmates in all housing areas should be afforded razors twice a week in order to shave.There are many inmates in this prison who shave or need to shave regularly for religious and sanitary purposes. Those of us who choose to shave should be allowed to do so. This is a policy that was once allowed but was then stopped by then Warden Phelps. We should be allowed state-issued razors two times a week and better shaving razors should once again be sold on commissary. The DOC doesn’t stop double/triple celling inmates because the practice leads to fights, so they should not stop selling and providing razors because they lead to one or two people getting cut. Instead, those incidents should be dealt with on a case by case basis, not by acts of mass punishment. We want razors back for all inmates no matter their classification.

Vendor Packages. At least two vendors should be allowed into the prison for the purpose of allowing inmates to purchase one 60-pound package a year ranging from food, electronics, sneakers, hygiene, etc. Inmates should also be allowed one 30-pound package consisting of only foodstuffs for the months of November and December. The DOC can approve different weights and allowable items for different classification levels. By allowing two vendors it will ensure that no one vendor can monopolize the market and hike the prices for inmates and their families.

Cleaning Supplies. Inmates should not be denied cleaning supplies. There is no reason that DOC should not want first, a clean prison, and second, for the inmates to practice cleanliness. However, DOC staff frequently deny inmates the material to properly clean the tier, the showers, and our cells. This needs to stop! Right now 18C tier is completely filthy. No one can remember the last time the showers have been cleaned. The tiers and cells are covered in filth and scum. Back on January 2, 2009, a nonviolent protest was staged on this issue alone. Since then nothing has changed. The showers on this tier should be deep cleaned no less than three times per week and inmates should be given full cleaning supplies at least three times per week consisting of: 1) a dust broom; 2) a toilet brush; 3) a sponge; 4) a cleaning rag; 5) a bucket; 6) soap balls; 7) Comet; 8) a mop; and 9) a mop bucket. These supplies should be readily available on all tiers.

Goodtime. We would like an increase of earned goodtime credits from 5 days a month to 10 days a month. Additionally, all inmates should receive “goodtime” credits for participating in work, school, or programming no matter what their classification status.

Recreation. We would like the “rec” schedule to go back to the “pre-riot” schedule for all buildings.

Library. All inmates should be afforded access to the Library no matter their classification status.

Indigent Supplies. All indigent supplies should also include lotion and deodorant.

Investigation into post-riot actions on the part of staff. There should be a full investigation into the actions of DOC staff afterthe riot. This must include all of the alleged mistreatments and abuse/assaults of inmates during the mass shakedowns in buildings 23, W, etc. This investigation should be conducted by an independent organization outside of the DOC.

Reassignments / Transfers of Staff. We request the transfer of or reassignment of duties for all the DOC staff listed below, who have an extensive history of abusing and mistreating prisoners.

*Captian Wiley

*Lt. Drace

*Sgt. Payton

*Sgt. Gill

*Sgt. Beckles

*Sgt. May

*Sgt. Forkum

*C/O Arabia

Lt. Ratcliffe

*Lt. Savage

Lt. Wallace

Sgt. Fredrick

Cpl. Jensen

*C/O Green (on the 8am–4pm shift)

*C/O Linsey

*Sgt. Barromia (assigned to Bldg 18, on the 12am-8amshift)

*Sgt. Chalice

Sgt. Dejesus

*Lt. Tyson

Staff Lt. Reynolds

This list is not all encompassing. We picked the worst of the worst Correctional Officers (COs), some of whose actions cannot and will not be forgiven. These staff have stars next to their names. If they cannot be disciplined by the DOC, then we will be forced to once again take actions into our own hands. We will no longer settle for being kicked while we are down. This is your opportunity to prove to both your staff and to us inmates that you will not settle for the blatant abuse and mistreatment of any prisoner. Our lives matter as well.

We hope that you give a lot of thought to these 22 requests. These issues are all very important to us. Please feel free to take your time. We have patience, a lot of time, and most importantly nothing to lose.

On behalf of my brothers in the struggle,

Thomas Gordon

SBI #455684

  • 1While a “heart healthy diet” may sound desirable to the larger public located outside of the prison walls, individuals incarcerated in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and beyond consistently report that the proportions associated with this “diet” as administered by the Department of Corrections leaves people underfed and hungry.


Vaughn & Building Support for Prison Rebels

An article from the It's Going Down column Bloc Party, discussing the significance of the Vaughn uprising and ways to build solidarity with prison rebels.

Submitted by R Totale on June 21, 2018

“We have patience, a lot of time, and most importantly, nothing to lose.”

-A prisoner at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center

With the first trials for those arrested during the Trump inauguration on January 20th set to begin this week, we wanted to remind our readers of 18 others who fought the Trump regime from inside the walls of a Delaware state prison. On February 1st, 2017, inmates in the C-building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) in Delaware took control of their unit and held staff hostage in an uprising that lasted over 18 hours. They called the media, released a list of demands, and explained their actions as motivated by their conditions of confinement as well as the election of Donald Trump as President. One prison guard, Steven Floyd, was killed by inmates during the uprising.

On February 1st, prisoners connected their daily struggles for humanity and survival to the broader political context we entered collectively as a nation. Much in the same way that hundreds of people took to the streets for deeply personal reasons on January 20th, using the inauguration of Trump as a way to highlight all those myriad reasons for resistance, the prisoners at Vaughn used the president and his policies as a means to highlight their own deeply personal struggles for liberation.

The uprising came after numerous nonviolent protests by prisoners had failed to lead to the prison addressing their grievances. In the aftermath of the uprising, corrections officers alleged that prisoners had been staging inmate-on-inmate fights in the prison yard to find vulnerabilities in the guards’ emergency response. On the day of the uprising, prisoners covered their faces with masks and rushed the two officers letting them back in from the prison yard—a key moment of vulnerability when the prisoner-to-guard ratio is at its lowest.

Prisoner surrender following a 18 hour uprising at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware (Source: ABC News)

After more than eight months, on October 17th, an indictment was handed down by the Delaware Department of Justice that charged sixteen prisoners with murder charges for the death of a correctional officer. Those sixteen along with two other prisoners are also looking at counts of kidnapping, conspiracy and rioting.

As of this writing, six of these prisoners have pled “not guilty” and demanded jury trials. Of these six, five are charged with first degree murder. The court has also determined that the prisoners cannot be granted public defenders due to “conflicts of interest.” Instead they will be appointed private attorneys.

Death Penalty In Delaware

With the murder of the corrections officer at Vaughn during the uprising in February, there has been renewed support for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the State of Delaware, which had been ruled unconstitutional in August of 2016. The repeal of the death penalty was strongly opposed by the union representatives of both the police and corrections officers, who are currently using the death during the Vaughn uprising along with the death of a police officer in April, 2017 as a cry for a return to capital punishment in the state:

“There are some truly evil people who commit heinous crimes against innocent citizens in this state,” said Lt. Thomas Brackin, president of the Delaware State Troopers Association. “You do need to have the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime.”

We’re reminded of the truly evil Delaware police officers who shot and killed Jeremy “Bam Bam” McDole, who was a wheelchair bound Black man murdered in 2015. The same police who are calling for “the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime” all walked away without any indictments related to McDole’s death.

As recently as November 9th, 2017, prosecutors in Delaware have stated in court documents that they intend to seek the death penalty in this case if it is indeed reinstated. While the final state senate vote has yet to occur on this matter, it is important to keep a keen eye on this as it develops. It is also worth noting the way that the prison, police and prosecutors are collaborating to use what happened at Vaughn as a means of bringing a more totalitarian vision of so-called law and order to the state. Where there is resistance, like what we saw from within the walls at Vaughn, we can naturally expect repression to follow. In this case, repression could have deadly consequences.

Why We Support Prison Rebels

“The primary purpose of everything we do must be to make this society increasingly unmanageable. That’s key. The more unmanageable the society becomes, the more of its resources the state must expend in efforts to maintain order ‘at home.’ The more this is true, the less the state’s capacity to project itself outwardly, both geographically and temporally. Eventually, a point of stasis will be reached, and, in a system such as this one, anchored as it is in the notion of perpetual growth, this amounts to a sort of ‘Doomsday Scenario’ because, from there, things start moving in the other direction—’falling apart,’ as it were—and that creates the conditions of flux in which alternative social forms can really begin to take root and flourish.”

-Ward Churchill, The New Face of Liberation

Taken as a whole, prisoners across the U.S. right now are actively engaging in some of the most passionate, consistent and effective rebellion in the country. Month after month we read news of prisoners getting together to fight guards, attack the physical infrastructure that confines them, attempt escape, issue demands and make threats to back them up. They are actively linking up with each other and reaching out to those on the outside in search of accomplices. This is happening right now and it will continue to happen. The only question is whether we will be a part of it.

All of this comes as critiques of “mass incarceration” and “long-term segregation” are becoming increasingly mainstream. Even Oprah is against long-term segregation now. While these are reformist ideas in and of themselves, they point to the reality that everyday people are beginning to take note of what goes on behind prison walls in a new way. Each new season of Orange is the New Black has the dual effect of further exploiting prisoners for entertainment value and further humanizing the everyday lives of prisoners. And all this has the potential to shift the way society deals with crime and punishment.

This change is already beginning to take place. Both liberals and conservatives are coming to the conclusion that a system of mass incarceration isn’t sustainable and are beginning to chip away at it. According to the New York Times, 31 states “have already limited sentences; expanded alternatives to incarceration, such as drug treatment; or otherwise reduced the reach and cost of the criminal justice system.” At the federal level, there is bipartisan support for legislative action that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences and otherwise reduce the prison population. In 2016 we wrote about the Department of Justice’s announcement to end their contracts with private prison corporations for federal facilities, a part of their plan to reduce the federal prison population in the coming years.

(Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts)

Adding to this storm are the inevitable forces of reaction that are working hard to push society back toward more overtly brutal forms of punishment. Jeff Sessions’ “law and order” strategy as well as those seeking to reinstate the death penalty in Delaware are only contributing to the chaos of the current moment.

The incarceration system is further being destabilized by pandemic levels of overcrowding and understaffing in U.S. jails, prisons and detention centers. As of early November, the Delaware DOC “confirmed that the agency currently has 265 vacant correctional officer positions. [Correctional Officers Association of Delaware President] Klopp believes the real number to be much higher.” These conditions continue to exist ten months after one of the largest prison uprisings in the last few years, despite Delaware elected officials desperately scrambling to address these problems. Unfortunately for them, the only solution to this crisis is to convince the public to pump even more money into prison budgets, which they are increasingly reluctant to do.

None of this means that the world is about to get better. What it may mean, though, is that one system of control is weakening and those in power are being forced to consider how to replace it (their intention, likely, being to replace it with something more effectively repressive). But this moment of transition may be an opening in which a hard push could topple the already stumbling giant.

As the U.S. prison system finds itself on unsure footing, prisoners are doing an admirable job of shaking the ground it stands on. This is the key element that could create the “Doomsday Scenario,” Ward Churchill suggests. As David Fathi, Director of the National ACLU Prison Project, aptly pointed out during a press conference on the Vaughn uprising, “Prisons function with the consent of the prisoners. Staff will always be greatly outnumbered by prisoners.” Increasingly, prisoners across the country are withdrawing that consent. If these currents continue to deepen, the prison system in the U.S. could cease functioning.

How We Can Support Prison Rebels

Rally to support Vaughn prisoners on February 2, 2017. (Photo by Joe Piette)

The question, then, becomes how those on the outside can help prisoners bring about this collapse.

Here’s a few ideas we’d like to suggest:

Get together with others in your town and become experts about the prisons closest to you. Collaborate with others in your region to make sure that all the major prisons in your area are covered. Network with others doing the same work in other regions.

Get in touch with as many prisoners as possible in those prisons. Establish robust and overlapping networks of communication-meaning multiple people having complex relationships with as many prisoners as possible. Having multiple channels of communication ensures that in moments of rebellion, news will spread quickly and reliably and will be less likely to be shut down.

Focus on building relationships with prisoners who have demonstrated a willingness to act and to act collectively. Prison supporters are easily bogged down by requests from prisoners for help, with endless complaints, with requests that we be a dating service, etc. While helping prisoners is a big part of building and maintaining networks of communication, this is not a charity service. The goal in everything we do is to build our capacity to act together against prisons.

Build a common language and shared political and ethical foundation with prisoners in your region so that when shit goes down you know how to make decisions together quickly and fluidly. This also has the effect of inserting a political and ethical framework if prisoners are simply fighting back against conditions they hate but have not connected those struggles to a larger vision of society. Read zines and books together and discuss. Push back against racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, romaticization of violence, etc. Don’t expect prison rebels to be perfect. Don’t be afraid to say what you think, but don’t be afraid to listen and learn as well.

When an uprising does happen at a prison near you, act fast.

Gather outside the prison and hold banners, chant, play music and make lots of noise. This boosts rebelling prisoners’ morale and shows the guards and administration that people outside are paying attention.

Hold demonstrations at other locations in solidarity. These locations could be the DOC central office (usually in the state capitol), the warden or prison director’s home (as some prison abolitionists in Michigan recently did), at a location that profits off prisons, (such as McDonald’s), or really anywhere else. This has the effect of creating multiple zones of conflict, which has the potential of spreading the rebellion beyond its confines.

Talk to the media and explain the abuses by guards and staff and the conditions of confinement your group has documented at the prison. Without speaking for the prisoners if they haven’t asked you to do so, explain some reasons why prisoners rebel and situate the uprising in the context of a larger wave of prisoner rebellion.

Make your own media: write articles for independent news sources, make and hand out fliers, drop banners, wheatpaste posters and put up graffiti about the uprising.

Encourage others to call the prison in response to acts of repression by the prison. Attention from the outside has a powerful effect on the prison administration and can cause them to act less brutally toward prisoners. This has the dual effect of helping prisoners you care about and also increasing the chances that they will be willing to act again in the future because people had their back.

Track prisoners carefully, as they are often transferred in retaliation. Be sure to stay in touch with them. Help them spread word of the uprising in their new prison. Such trasnfers can have the affect of spreading rebellions throughout a prison system.

Help prisoners tell their stories of rebellion afterward and make sure they are heard far and wide.

This list is by no means exhaustive of course. There are countless ways one can support prisoners in their struggles and we trust you’ll come up with even more. The key is to simply start somewhere. The first place we see for supporting the rebels from Vaughn is by writing them and letting them know that we hear them loud and clear out here. In March a prisoner named Thomas Gordon wrote a letter of demands to the prison administration at Vaughn and opened his letter with this:

Due to the conditions of this prison and the treatment of those held within it, it was only a matter of time before we (as I stand in solidarity with them) were forced to take actions into our own hands. Our attempts at diplomacy were ignored, our pleas for help fell on deaf ears. There was no other way for you to know our struggle, for you to acknowledge our plight. What had to be done was done.

We created the poster below as a means of sharing these pleas and making sure they fell on listening ears. Even if you cannot take on the intensive work of supporting these prisoners long term, take a few moments and let them know that you heard them and we’re still listening.


Vaughn 17 Update & a Call for Support - September 2018

An update on the Vaughn 17, prisoners facing repression for alleged participation in a rebellion that took place in early 2017.

Submitted by R Totale on September 14, 2018

1. All of those who were previously held at Howard R. Young Correctional Facility have been moved to Sussex Correctional Facility. This means that all 17 of them are now together at the same facility. A poster with their updated addresses for writing can be found here. Do continue writing them letters of support as they have expressed many times that it really boosts their morale.

2. While they are excited to be reunited with one another, they have also been experiencing new and intensified forms of repression since their relocation. This repression has led them to go on a recent hunger strike and they are asking for support in the wake of retaliation. An excerpt from a letter received from one of the Vaughn 17 states:

“Despite the appreciation and healing of being able to see my codefendants faces again after the struggles and suffering we endured together at J.T.V.C.C., I believe this transition has turned out for the worst. Why? Because since the arrival of my other codefendants the administration has switched our rec schedule to where we’re only getting an hour and a half every other day unlike the hour and a half we used to get every single day. So basically, our rec hours were literally cut in half from getting ten and a half hours a week to six and a half or four and a half hours a week. Not only is this rec schedule in contrary to CLASI (Community Legal Aid Society Incorporated, CLASI vs. Robert M. Coupe, 2016 US District, Lexis 237 28* 2017 WL 1055741), of what’s supposed to be implemented, but this is a retaliation attack against us. The moment ths new rec schedule was activated we addressed the warden to his face that this wasn’t gong to work. His response was “give me two weeks.” Fourteen of us waited patiently for two weeks and nothing got done, instead we were spinned and lied to as usual. To avoid any more lies and to get what we’re entitled as prisoners, we came together and organized a hunger strike. After about 2-3 days on the hunger strike, staff came to negotiate. Despite us having multiple requests that were reasonable, our man focus was rec because certain people were unable to call their families and attorneys because of the times we came out. After stressing our reasons for rec change to staff, they agreed to change t that following Monday as long as we came off of hunger strike. As a group, we agreed to get off hunger strike for the purpose of getting our new rec schedule. After that, they backdoored us with Class 1 demonstration infractions that carry 5 days hole, 10 days confinement of quarters, and 30 days loss of all privileges, and they still haven’t implemented the new rec schedule. Some already pled guilty to the infraction and some are in the process of appealing. We were hoping that you and your comrades can make a call to our judge and warden.”

3. A phone zap will take place on Monday, September 17th as per their request. A sample script with their demands as well as addresses and phone numbers can be found below. A shareable pdf can also be found here. The script below can also be used to write letters on their behalf.

“Hello, my name is —-, and I am contacting you about treatment of the 17 prisoners charged in connection with the uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, who are now being held at the Sussex Correctional Institution. What is their condition currently? Are they being punished for their hunger strike last month?

Additionally, I am calling to insist on seven demands by the 17 Vaughn prisoners.

1. Elimination of the demonstration write-up. Their hunger strike peacefully sought a basic right, which they were denied, namely, 10.5 hours of recreation time per week. It is unjust that they were punished for seeking what is rightfully theirs. The write-up must be eliminated and their rec time returned to 10.5 hours per week.

2. More phone-calls. The Vaughn prisoners are limited to being able to use the phone only once or twice a week, which is inadequate for dealing with the burden placed on them and their families as they face their upcoming trials. They demand phone access four times a week.

3. Visits: The Vaughn prisoners receive only 45 minutes of visitation time. Many visitors are travelling more than an hour and a half to SCI. As many of the Vaughn prisoners could be transferred across the country after their trials, the Vaughn prisoners are demanding that visitation time be increased to an hour and a half.

4. Law library: Two of the Vaughn prisoners will be representing themselves pro se at their trials. Their current access to the library is insufficient and obstructs their pursuit of justice. They need more physical access to the library or more paralegals honoring their requests.

5. Hotpot/Microwave: Given that many of staff who assaulted the Vaughn prisoners after the uprising work at SCI and have threatened them since, the Vaughn prisoners have reason to believe that their food is being tampered with. They demand microwaves or hotpots so that they can cook their own hot meals every day.

6. Property review: The Vaughn prisoners have reason to believe that their electrical appliances have been tampered with. Since they do not have electrical outlets, they cannot test them. They demand that their appliances be tested in front of them to make sure they work before they leave SCI.

7. Haircuts: The Vaughn prisoners demand that they receive haircuts before and throughout the duration of their upcoming trials so that they look well groomed and presentable.”

Warden Robert May
Warden IV, SCI
Georgetown, DE 19947
(302) 856-5280
Fax: (302) 856-5072

Judge William C. Carpenter
Superior Court of Delaware
New Castle County Courthouse
500 North King St., Suite 10400
Wilmington, DE 19801
(302) 255-0561

4. Trials for the Vaughn 17 are set to begin in October. If you wish to help coordinate support for trials email folks in philly at [email protected]


"17-17-17" - Reflections at the End of the Vaughn 17 Trial

Submitted by R Totale on August 13, 2019

On October 17th 2017, 17 prisoners were indicted for allegedly partaking in the uprising that occurred at James T. Vaughn Correction Center in Smyrna Delaware on February 1, 2017. This miscellany of individuals would eventually be given the moniker “Vaughn 17.”

Contrary to our charge of “conspiracy,” prior to this case many of us had never interacted with one another before. As far as myself I only knew 3 of my co-defendants on a personal level. I believe this unfamiliarity exacerbated the tensions that arise while one is engaged in a struggle for life, freedom or truth. Ultimately our triumph hinged upon surmounting psychological barriers that were buttressed by our diverse array of ideologies, idiosyncrasies, experiences, maturity levels and ways of life. Out of all that, there still remained a sad but proven reality that weighed heavily on our minds. There’s 17 co-defendants — the odds are in favor of at least 4-6 opting to cooperate with authorities to secure some type of leniency for their cowardice. With that being the foremost concern, me and Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers approached individuals and recommended that they first consult with us, if they found themselves pondering thoughts of compromising. Being though the vast majority wasn’t privy to or knowledgeable of any specifics concerning the takeover, we would of provided them with details pertaining to our actions, so they wouldn’t concoct fabrications about anyone else. Figuratively speaking we’d accept being stabbed in the chest to present others from getting stabbed in the back. Only one person gave the proposal any consideration. More than anything he was frightened of the maliciousness of the deputy attorney generals, and felt vulnerable against the power they wield. Imagine going to sleep at night with 4 years remaining on your sentence, then morning comes and your greeted by 3 counts of murder, 3 counts of assault, 4 counts of kidnapping, 1 count of riot, 1 count of conspiracy. Internally a lot of my co-defendants were grappling with this abuse of discretion, but they never expressed any desire to seek a pseudo refuge in anticipation of the metaphorical slaughter that some thought was inevitable.

During these preliminary stages it definitely appeared as though the prosecutors had everything rigged to ensure our guilt. The department of corruption aided their accomplice. By keeping us sequestered in living quarters conducive to the deterioration of one’s mind. Some of our adversaries disguised themselves as court appointed lawyers. The system “tried” to box us in on every level. For the first 8 or 9 months the only discovery (evidence) that “some” of us received was co-defendant statements, DNA analyses, and other reports that were deemed paltry. Any material critical to our defense specifically, information alluding to why we were charged was held under a protective seal by a judge’s order. The cumulative effect of these hinderances (tactics) provoked one of my codefendants to contemplate “throwing in the towel,” somehow he rationalized that pleading guilty to something he had no involvement with was a viable solution towards evading the barrage of mental intrusions. Their schematic design became so overwhelming that it nearly infringed upon his sanity. To a degree, all of us were on the verge of psychological exhaustion. Instead of mentally collapsing, it caused us to start making conscious efforts to morally support each other. This was around the time my motion to go pro se (represent myself) was granted. I filed a subsequent motion stating that I be issued a laptop and be given all the discovery discs that the lawyers were entitled to. My request was granted with the stipulation that I adhere to the rules and regulations of the protective order. Which basically meant that I share nothing with my co-defendants. “Yeah Aight!” Once I started receiving the material “we” began analyzing it. Simply saying that we immersed ourselves within this case would be an understatement. I never witnessed a group of individuals move with such a synchronized mind. “Due diligence” is why truly empowered our collective. After sifting through the discovery, which amounted to 7 boxes of documents and about 45 discs. There was no physical evidence, no surveillance footage, or forensic evidence. It all came down to our 17 against 41 lying snakes.

The results: Me and Ruk was found guilty, for basically admitting to our levels of involvement. Deric Forney, Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes, and Roman Shankaras were acquitted. John Bramble and Obadiah Miller had a hung jury on a few of the charges, but a retrial would not be pursued. Cory Smith, Luis Sierra (Abdul Haqq), Janiis Mathis, Robert Hernandez, Jonatan Rodriguez, Alejandro Rodriguez, Pedro Chairez and Lawrence Michaels all got their cases dismissed. R.I.P. to Kelly Gibbs who took a plea during jury deliberations of the first trial. He committed suicide the night the verdicts returned.

This narration of events was shared to provide a fundamental basis to delineate another nuance of “Vaughn 17.” Like I mentioned, we were essentially strangers comprised of different races, affiliations, motivations etc. Some of my co-defendants had real beefs on the streets. We are a microcosm of the prison population, which reflects society as a whole. I just want to put emphasis on how our discrepancies became inconsequential after the true enemy was identified. If the 17 of us along with our comrades and supporters could unify to deliver a blow that caused the political landscape in Delaware to implode imagine what 1,700 or 17,000 strong can accomplish….

The power is the people.


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

Submitted by R Totale on August 28, 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 [email protected] or by going to the Facebook event page, at Bay View staff contributed to this report.


R Totale

4 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on September 9, 2019

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.

United We Stood: Writings and Analysis from the Vaughn 17

A collection of new writings and analysis from the Vaughn 17, a group of prisoners who faced charges following an uprising at the James T. Correctional Center in Delaware. Most of the Vaughn 17 are still being held indefinitely in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania. This zine was first posted at It's Going Down.

Submitted by R Totale on June 23, 2021

On February 1, 2017, prisoners in C–building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware took control of the building and held guards hostage in an uprising that lasted over 18 hours. That morning, several prisoners had put on masks and rushed the guards who were letting them back into the building from yard, while another prisoner ensured that the counselor on duty was kept safe and held off a CERT team that sought to retake the building.

The prisoners leading the uprising called the media and released a list of demands; the prison eventually retook the building by breaching one of its walls with a backhoe. One prison guard, Steven Floyd, was killed by prisoners during the uprising.

The Vaughn 17 are seventeen of the eighteen prisoners who were subsequently indicted on charges including multiple counts of murder, kidnapping, assaulting an officer, and conspiracy, by the state of Delaware. The eighteenth person charged, Royal “Diamond” Downs, a notorious Black Guerrilla Family leader, turned state’s witness and provided much of the State’s case against the prisoners.

Despite that, the indicted prisoners, most of whom did not know or deal with each other prior to the uprising, organized their own defense and almost completely beat the State’s case at trial. Dwayne Staats and Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers represented themselves at court and took responsibility for their part in planning the uprising and with assisting with keeping everyone safe during the takeover itself, respectively. Both were already serving life sentences.

The other prisoners in the first two trials —Deric Forney, Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes, John Bramble, and Obadiah Miller —were acquitted in court of all charges (the last two had a hung jury on charges of assaulting an officer, which were later dropped). Roman Shankaras, who had helped organize nonviolent protests prior to the uprising and whom the State hoped to frame as the “mastermind” behind the prison takeover, was tried separately and acquitted on all charges. The State was forced to drop the remaining charges against the rest of the defendants.

The shared mission of the Vaughn 17 is to disrupt, dismantle and destroy the prison industrial complex. Many of the V17 are revolutionaries or insurrectionaries taking up the incendiary and blood–soaked tradition of figures like Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, and George Jackson. The rest stuck together when indicted and made enormous sacrifices in the process.

Prisoners were physically tortured following the uprising and experienced extreme pressure from the state to cooperate. After Delaware failed to beat the collective in court, most of the Vaughn 17 were shipped to Pennsylvania, where the state could continue to keep them in solitary indefinitely with no way out. They have now all been in solitary for at least four consecutive years (most for much longer).

We support the Vaughn 17 because as aspiring insurrectionaries, we are inspired by their physical struggle against prison and systemic oppression and by their unflinching refusal to cooperate with the State. The writings in this zine come from captive revolutionaries whose analysis, experience, and abilities extend far beyond what most radicals on the outside have dared to explore. Struggles out here against authority have a lot to learn from prisoners’ experiences on the inside. Bringing these two very different insurrectionary currents together has the potential to enrich us all in unimaginable ways, open up our vision, threaten the State, and bring us closer to collective liberation.