- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s inspector general for corrections is questioning prison workers’ response to a fire started by an inmate.

Inspector General Doug Koebernick said in a recent report that workers at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution were less than responsive or timely in addressing the inmate’s suspicious behavior and the fire in May, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

The report said the inmate was roaming the hallway of a housing unit, passed envelopes from one cell to another and encouraged other inmates to flood the hallway, break sprinkler heads and kick doors. The inmate then tied bedsheets across the hallway while another inmate helped him light piles of paper on fire. More than an hour passed before the main inmate was restrained by staff after he went to an entrance and asked for help.

Koebernick said prison workers only watched when the fire started and then attempted to put it out by spraying a fire extinguisher under a door.

“The inmates and even staff on the Lower E Gallery were in harm’s way for a considerable amount of time, yet it appears that nothing was done to try and resolve the potentially deadly situation for a period of time,” he said.

He said that an extraction team escorted each inmate out to the medical area, and as a result, considerable time passed before medical staff could assess some inmates who had spent time in smoke.

Staff provided timely medical care, according to Scott Frakes, director of the Department of Correctional Services. Frakes said the delay was primarily the result of miscommunication about who was responding to the fire.

Frakes told Koebernick he agreed every minute counts in an emergency and a timely response is important. Koebernick recommended the corrections department save security footage of the case for 90 days, but Frakes suggested the agency retain it for two weeks.

The prison has a troubled recent history. Inmates took control of a portion of the prison and killed two fellow inmates in March 2015. In March of this year, inmates rioted again at the prison, killing another two inmates. An inmate attacked two guards and bit a caseworker about a month later.


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

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