State Corrections Director Scott Frakes says he will use a culture study of his department to address problems at the Department of Correctional Services.
Frakes says the results of interviews conducted late last year have given him much to consider.
“The fact that staff, even though they have expressed a fear of retaliation, a fear that they can’t speak their mind, that given the opportunity they actually have a lot of say,” Frakes tells Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview.
Nearly 500 employees of the Department of Correctional Services provided input in the cultural study conducted between September and December of last year.
A top concern expressed was that employees perceive “a fear of retaliation, lack of respect, and inconsistent application of principles.”
Concern over safety also surfaced.
The reports states Corrections work is inherently dangerous, because staff is working with 5,400 inmates, half of whom are incarcerated for violent crimes. Staff say inmates are more demanding, disrespectful, and violent. They add they do not feel adequately trained to handle potentially volatile situations.
Veteran employees complain their pay has lagged and often long-term employees make the same wage as brand-new employees.
Frakes vows to address those and other issues contained in the report.
“We celebrate everything that goes well. We learn from everything that doesn’t go as well as it should and a year from now I know we’re going to be able to look back and say things are different,” Frakes says.
A team led by Sharon Rues Pettid as the Governor’s Chief Human Resources Officer conducted the study. Frakes says the results will be used to implement his strategic plan to more the department into an evidence-based agency.
The department says the results in Nebraska reflect concerns raised by Corrections employees in other states, such as Oregon, Wisconsin, Virginia and Florida, which conducted similar studies.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]