Vaughn prison teacher describes ordeal
“Surreal” is how Anthony Stella described his time Wednesday inside Vaughn Correctional Center, where he’s a culinary instructor developing a training program for inmates.
Stella said he was in the education building with 12 inmates preparing to finish his mid-morning class and get ready for lunch when he heard a call for a Code One, which signals an attack on a corrections officer.
The call came over a corrections officer’s radio, said Stella, adding he’d heard Code Ones before so it didn’t alarm him.
“They lock down the whole facility,” he said. “That means no movement. Everything stops. You stay where you are.”
Stella closed the classroom door and continued teaching his students in the education building and not in Building C, where the incident occurred. As they looked out the classroom window, Stella said they could see a lot of commotion.
“We saw a lot of people running,” he said. “We saw all the other assets coming in, helicopters and stuff. We knew something was up.”
About 30 minutes into the lockdown, Stella said he and other non-corrections officers were removed from the classroom and the prisoners were returned to their cells.
“They locked us down in a room that we were with some other corrections officers who had their radios on, and we basically sat there for a couple of hours and actually could listen to the hostage negotiator negotiating with the inmate,” he said. “That was kind of surreal because you are actually hearing what’s going on.”
“It was just crazy.”
Stella said he was never in harm’s way, but he said that the inmates were upset about something. Stella said he wasn’t sure what all of the hostage takers’ demands were.
“It was crazy we were listening to all this stuff,” he added. “I think finally somebody realized [and said], ‘Hey, maybe it’s not good these non-correctional officer people should be listening to this stuff. So then they moved us to another place.
“It was just a surreal experience, but I have to say the corrections people there are good people.”
Last year, Stella closed Chef Anthony’s Italian Market, a gourmet foods takeout and store near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, as he embarked on a new career teaching culinary arts to inmates at Vaughn. He works in the prison through a state Department of Education program. Stella said he wasn’t intimidated by Wednesday’s incident, adding he would be returning to the prison once they allowed classes to resume.