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Discussion of Hostage Negotiations


Hostage negotiation acts as a technique utilized by law enforcement officers to communicate with individuals who threaten violence. The negotiation helps in resolving the existing conflict for hostages to be safely released. Law enforcement officers obtain the proper training to learn how to handle hostage incidents. The continued occurrence of hostage incidences reveals the need for proper training because some officers fail to address the situations successfully (Johnson, Thompson, Hall & Meyer, 2017). Some of the incidents cause death and harm to the hostages, compelling law enforcement officers to engage the culprits better to minimize the negative impacts. Analyzing past hostage negotiations is crucial as it helps prevent the same mistakes in the future to contain incidences effectively.

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Negotiation Incident

One of the significant hostage negotiation incidents is the Delaware prison hostage, which occurred on February 1, 2017, in James T. Vaughn Correctional Center within Smyrna, Delaware. The hostage standoff took 15 hours to fully contain and bring normalcy within the correctional center. The prison is one of the largest in the state, with a capacity of 2,500 inmates. The ordeal began at around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, and ended on Thursday morning (Berman & Mettler, 2017). Some inmates took hostage to four correction department employees and fellow convicts.

Negotiation Incident (Cont’d)

The hostage standoff ended following an intervention by the police who penetrated through building C of the prison. The building accommodated more than 100 maximum-security prisoners under transition to medium-security. The hostage-takers managed to release 27 inmates, although the police officers managed to rescue individuals who were not injured, including a female staff member and other correction officers. However, a correction officer, Sgt. Steven R. Floyd appeared unresponsive and died after the incident (Berman & Mettler, 2017). The prison was put under lockdown to enhance continuity of services.

Individuals Involved

The hostage negotiation occurred between a prison negotiator and an inmate. After the incident was detected, a correction officer requested immediate assistance from other correctional officers, who ended up putting the prison on lockdown. However, the inmates had already taken some individuals hostage and managed to release a few of them. Through the use of empathy skills, the prison negotiator began by asking the inmate about the condition of Steven Floyd, who was still held captive (Pérez-Peña & Hurdle, 2017). Conversely, the inmate demanded to first talk to Governor John Carney before allowing the negotiator to talk to Floyd.

Individuals Involved (Cont’d)

The prison negotiator coerced the inmates to reveal their demands through an intent letter to find quick solutions and end the standoff. The inmates agreed to provide a televised statement in which they demanded an apology from the governor for endless oppression within the prison. The battery of the inmate’s cellphone began to fade away, and demanded a new phone to release Floyd. The inmate requested to talk to the governor before ending the communication after the phone goes off (Pérez-Peña & Hurdle, 2017). However, after unfruitful negotiations, the police decided to break into the building to secure the hostages.

Mistakes Made

The hostage negotiation had several mistakes that made the entire process unsuccessful, leading to the death of a correctional officer. One of the mistakes is allowing the prison negotiator to act alone instead of using a team to engage in the hostage negotiation to contain the situation swiftly. The second mistake is using an unqualified and less competent prison negotiator who could not outshine the inmates. Negotiators should demonstrate exceptional skills such as patience, self-awareness, and respect to fully engage their counterparts and ensure that they feel respected and their concerns are being addressed (Johnson et al., 2017). Lastly, the negotiator failed to know when to leave the negotiations forcing the inmates to place more demands to release the captive.

Actions Taken

The 16 inmates that participated in the hostage incident were charged with murder and assault, which attracted life imprisonment following the death of Steven Floyd. The prisoners were also charged with riot and kidnapping to discourage other prisoners from engaging in unwanted behaviors and riots that may cause harm and injury to others. James T. Vaughn Correctional Center focused on training the prison negotiators to handle future hostage occurrences (Pérez-Peña & Hurdle, 2017). Additionally, the facility acquired more correctional officers and staff to boost the security levels and maintain good behaviors among the prisoners.

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Lessons Learned

Various lessons can be learned from the hostage negotiation incident. One of the main lessons is facility lockdown to limit the movement of inmates and make it easy to capture the culprits. During the lockdown, the inmates’ emergency needs should be fulfilled. Secondly, correctional facilities should prevent negative influence by instilling good behaviors within the inmates to avoid unwanted alliances within the prisons that may lead to riots (Young, 2016). Thirdly, the correctional officers should maintain high levels of safety and teach the inmates how to reveal their concerns without causing needless commotions.

Lessons Learned (Cont’d)

The fourth lesson is training prison negotiators to ensure that they possess the right skills to handle hostage incidents effectively. Prison negotiators should interact with their counterparts in the best way possible to minimize the potential damages and swiftly reach a consensus (Johnson et al., 2017). Fifthly, correctional officers should maintain situational awareness to completely understand the surroundings to identify potential culprits within the prison in advance. Lastly, good correctional leadership should be upheld to ensure that correctional facilities address the needs of inmates and achieve the anticipated objectives without disruptions.


The continued occurrence of hostage incidents reveals the increased dissatisfaction within the public compelling them to champion their needs in the wrong way. Most correctional hostages occur due to displeasure and destructive behaviors among the inmates. Hostage negotiations should maintain a good relationship between the negotiator and counterparts to amicably reach an agreement. However, negotiators should have good skills and act as a team to outshine their counterparts. Continuous training of negotiators helps them avoid mistakes and respond to hostage incidents in the right way.


Berman, M., & Mettler, K. (2017). Hostage standoff in Delaware prison ends with one corrections officer dead. The Washington Post. Web.

Johnson, K. E., Thompson, J., Hall, J. A., & Meyer, C. (2017). Crisis (hostage) negotiators weigh in: The skills, behaviors, and qualities that characterize an expert crisis negotiator. Police Practice and Research, 19(5), 472-489. Web.

Pérez-Peña, R., & Hurdle, J. (2017). Inmates take employees hostage at a Delaware state prison. The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos. Web.

Young, A. T. (2016). Police hostage (Crisis) negotiators in the US: A national survey. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 31(4), 310-321. Web.

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