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Coronavirus is bringing a new wave of disruptions in Nebraska.  The Nebraska Department of Corrections is suspending visits, while federal court activity for both civil and criminal cases in the state is being postponed.  The National Weather Service has canceled a statewide tornado drill on March 25th.  The Cornhuskers spring football and volleyball games have been canceled, and the Nebraska School Activities Association has announced the suspension of all practices, activities and competitions.  The Catholic dioceses of Omaha and Lincoln are suspending public Masses.

State officials say Nebraska's prisons released 45 inmates earlier than they should have because officials failed to apply disciplinary sanctions to their sentences that would have kept them behind bars longer. The Department of Correctional Services acknowledged Thursday that 187 prisoners should have lost so-called “good time" credit for violations of prison policy, but the sanctions weren't properly counted on their sentences. Of that group, 45 have already been released from prison and two of them have since committed low-level misdemeanors when they should have been incarcerated.

State authorities say yet another state prison employee has been arrested on suspicion of unauthorized communication with a prisoner, a felony under state law. A news release from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services says 26-year-old Ashlee Yeackley, a food service worker at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, was arrested Wednesday and taken to the Lancaster County Jail. Officials say Yeackley has been employed by the department since February 2019. The release says she'll be suspended from her job.

Corrections Department Director calls for new prison

Feb 19, 2020

Nebraska's corrections department director is calling on lawmakers to consider building a new prison.  Corrections Director Scott Frakes unveiled a plan yesterday to issue a request for information to identify options for the "construction, maintenance and creation of new prison capacity." Frakes says the request for information is a first step for several options including a public-private partnership in building a new facility.  Nebraska's prisons are dealing with inmate capacity and under-staffing issues.

 

Nebraska's pardons board has refused to pardon the murder conviction of the ex-girlfriend of Charles Starkweather, the infamous killer who went on a rampage in the 1950s. The board voted 3-0 Tuesday to deny the application from Caril Ann Clair, even though some relatives of Starkweather's victims lobbied in her favor. Clair. who was known as Caril Ann Fugate at the time, currently lives in Michigan. She was 14 when Starkweather, then 19, went on a killing spree in 1957-58 that left 11 people dead in Nebraska and Wyoming, including her mother, stepfather and baby half-sister.

A key state lawmaker says Nebraska’s severe prison overcrowding is only going to get worse over the next few years if state officials don’t take more aggressive steps to address the problem. Sen. Steve Lathrop, of Omaha, told a legislative committee Wednesday that the state’s prison population is projected to grow so fast that it will outpace the new beds that corrections officials are adding to try to ease pressure on their facilities. Lathrop made the remarks as he proposed a new, $52 million Omaha community corrections facility to members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

A state lawmaker concerned about overcrowding in Nebraska prisons plans to propose building a new 300-bed work release facility in Omaha. State Sen. Steve Lathrop says he'll introduce a bill calling on the state to begin planning a new community corrections facility. Building the new facility could cost more than $40 million, but Lathrop's bill would only require the state to plan for the new work release facility. Nebraska's prisons currently hold 2,006 more inmates than their design capacity of 3,535 inmates. The state's prison system is at 157% of its design capacity.

Inmates at a Lincoln prison damaged a housing unit during a Christmas Eve disturbance after staff confiscated food and homemade alcohol. A Nebraska Department of Corrections spokeswoman said about 14 inmates at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center broke furniture, cracked a window and disabled surveillance cameras. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the incident began about 7 p.m. Tuesday and that some inmates returned to their cells as directed at the start. Prison staff locked down the facility and called in an emergency response team to resolve the incident.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Another Nebraska prison is switching to 12-hour shifts for correctional employees in response to persistent staffing shortages.

The Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in southeast Nebraska will follow in the steps of the Nebraska State Penitentiary, where administrators made a similar change early this year. Director Scott Frakes said Monday that the change will help ensure reliable staffing numbers to run the prison safely.

The Nebraska corrections department is asking more than 600 inmates to step forward if they’d like to serve out the remainder of their sentences in their home states.

Organization Seeks More Prison Beds

Nov 13, 2019

Another law enforcement organization is calling on Nebraska to add more prison beds.  The Nebraska State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police issued a letter yesterday that noted that more beds are needed at state prisons after corrections officials noted that facilities are near capacity.  The organization claims the effort to make some state laws into misdemeanors has forced county jails to add more space for offenders.

 

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Authorities are making an aggressive new push to remove contraband from Nebraska's largest prisons, but the task is more difficult than it seems.

Nebraska's crackdown is the latest example of states trying to clamp down on drugs, weapons and cellphones that have become prevalent in prisons.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Officers found more weapons and drugs during a second search of the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

The Nebraska Correctional Services Department deployed K-9 teams after a lockdown was imposed at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. Department Director Scott Frakes says nearly 40 officers from other law enforcement agencies joined department employees in the hunt for contraband.

State Prison Locked Down Again

Sep 19, 2019

(Lincoln, NE)  --  The Nebraska State Penitentiary is placed on lockdown during a raid for contraband.  The prison went on lockdown early yesterday morning, and investigators began their raid 90 minutes later.  More than 100 investigators searched for contraband including weapons, drugs, cellphones and alcohol.  Nebraska corrections officials say the raid had been planned for several weeks. 

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A new report says parts of a Nebraska prison weren't searched during a recent lockdown that was billed as a safety precaution to locate contraband.

Nebraska Inspector General for Correctional Services Doug Koebernick said in his annual report Monday that the issue came to his attention Sept. 6, when the Nebraska State Penitentiary was under a lockdown.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A lockdown and search at Nebraska's largest prison has unearthed a variety of drugs, homemade weapons and other contraband.

Prison officials revealed Wednesday some of the items found during last week's lockdown at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

The list includes the synthetic drug K2, which officials say has helped fuel a recent increase in assaults. Prison staff members also discovered makeshift tattoo machines, syringes, lighters and a cellphone hidden inside a tablet computer.

State Penitentiary Lockdown Eased

Sep 10, 2019

(Lincoln, NE)  --  The Nebraska State Penitentiary is moving away from a lockdown.  State Department of Correctional Services director Scott Frakes said inmates were given a little more freedom after the status change on Friday, but that outside visits were being canceled at least through the weekend.  Frakes said the penitentiary went into lockdown last Wednesday so that organized and intensive searches could be conducted.  He said no single incident spurred the action, but that there were a number of recent assaults and contraband discoveries that prompted it.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Searches for weapons, drugs and other contraband have been undertaken during a lockdown at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

Officials say the lockdown that began Wednesday morning was needed because of the increase in assaults on staffers and among inmates, as well as an increase in the use of synthetic marijuana, or K2.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska prisons watchdog has issued a warning about "alarming" conditions driven by staffing shortages and record overtime at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

Doug Koebernick, the inspector general for corrections, issued the report to lawmakers this week. Koebernick also identified contraband cellphones and the use of synthetic drugs as major security concerns.

Nebraska's prison system has faced a litany of problems in recent years, including persistent overcrowding and struggles to hire and retain employees.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Prison visitors and inmates who are caught with cellphones inside a state prison could face a misdemeanor charge under a bill advanced by Nebraska lawmakers.

Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval Wednesday as part of an omnibus prisons package.

The bill is designed to help state corrections officials, who confiscated more than 250 contraband phones last year. Nebraska corrections director Scott Frakes told a legislative committee in January that it's a major problem in the state prisons.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska state officials are pushing back against allegations that prisoners aren't receiving proper health care and mental health treatment due to deliberate indifference by the corrections department.

The Nebraska attorney general's office argued in a court filing Tuesday that the Department of Correctional Services provides excellent access to health care and has invested millions in new facilities and employees in recent years.

https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/louisiana-no-longer-worlds-prison-capital-heres-whats-next

The Nebraska Department of Corrections is working to recruit and retain employees with financial incentives.  Corrections officials announced yesterday that three-thousand-dollar bonuses will be given to the first 100 new employees that stay at least one year at the Tecumseh State Prison, Lincoln Correctional Center, the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center or the State Penitentiary.  Current prison workers will get bonuses ranging from 50-dollars to 400-dollars for recruiting a new employee, and supervisors can get up to a 400-dollar bonus if a staff member they oversee stays at least one year

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska prison and parole officials say they're forging ahead with state-mandated plans to reduce overcrowding in the correctional system, but some lawmakers worry the agencies will miss a looming deadline, forcing them to take more drastic action.

The Department of Correctional Services and Board of Parole highlighted the steps they've taken in a report this month to the Legislature but offered few specifics on their progress so far.

(Lincoln, NE)  --  Nebraska Corrections Director Scott Frakes is explaining why he didn't disclose a report on a 2015 riot at the Tecumseh State Prison.  Frakes sent a letter to state lawmakers on Friday saying that he withheld the report out of concern that its revelations about organized gangs at the prison could jeopardize the safety of staff, inmates and the public.  Two prisoners died in the riot, which caused more than two-million-dollars in damage to the prison. 

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lawmakers are racing to pass legislation before the session ends that would address Nebraska's prison overcrowding and a looming deadline to reduce the inmate population.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have advanced a bill that would give prisoners a chance to get a state identification card or renew their driver's license before their release.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Some Nebraska lawmakers say they're concerned the state corrections department will fail to meet a July 2020 deadline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Legislature's special oversight committee on Nebraska's justice system has recommended that the state begin to plan for a prison overcrowding emergency that could lead to paroling a large number of inmates.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's prison system is facing a staffing crisis that it may not be able to overcome amid a statewide nursing shortage and the state's relatively low wages.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The state corrections director says transforming Nebraska's prisons must begin by expanding and improving lower-security facilities.

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