- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Operations are improving at the prison in southeast Nebraska where two inmates were killed in a riot last year, but officials say a number of concerns remain.

Repairs to the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution from the May 10 riot aren’t complete, and the facility remains short on staff, which makes it hard to provide adequate programs for inmates, The Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/24DVivw ).

Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes said the prison is nearly back to the way it was operating before the riot, and he complemented the hard work staff has done.

But Nebraska Inspector General for Corrections Doug Koebernick questioned whether it’s good enough to restore the prison to the way it was.

“Because a year ago, when it was the way it was, we had a riot. We still face the same challenges now as we did back then,” Koebernick said.

Prison officials have previously said more than 400 inmates were involved in the riot May 10, which left two men dead and several employees and inmates injured. Rioters broke windows, ripped down walls and set mattresses on fire.

After the riot, inmates said the incident was fueled in part by disrespectful treatment by prison staff and frustration over a lack of privileges.

The state has spent about $1.2 million this fiscal year on repairs to the prison, and another $2 million is planned next year for repairs and upgrades. That’s on top of $1 million that insurance paid.

But State Sen. Dan Watermeier, who represents the area around the prison, said the work has been slowed because it was hard to find contractors for the jobs.

Staffing at the facility itself is another challenge.

Corrections officers have been working four or more 12-hour shifts every week over the past year because of staff shortages. Between Jan. 1 and March 23 alone, overtime paid was $347,000.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist said he’s still not clear exactly what is being done to change the culture of the prison and resolve longstanding issues.

For now, Krist said he is willing to give Frakes and other corrections officials time to do their jobs, but he said more oversight will be needed if there are additional problems.

“My own gut tells me that if the temperature goes up in the summertime and the prison population stays consistent, we’re going to have some issues. But I hope I’m wrong,” he said.

Tecumseh had 1,047 inmates as of March 24, 87 more than it was designed to hold. But it is generally less crowded than other Nebraska prisons, which are at 159 percent of design capacity with 5,210 inmates overall.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com



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