Gov. Pete Ricketts expresses confidence in the direction of the Department of Correctional Services despite a rash of violent outbursts in state prisons.
Ricketts says his administration has focused on improving the prison system from the beginning.
“You know, it’s not something that developed overnight,” Ricketts tells Coby Mach, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “This has been years in the making. There has been a lot of neglect over the years in our corrections system and we know we have work to do to change that, to change the culture there. There are a lot of things we have to address, but Director Frakes is the right man for the job and he’s been making those changes. We’re working toward getting these things addressed.”
Ricketts says he has the utmost confidence in State Corrections Director Scott Frakes who is trying to address retention of prison staff as well as unrest within the prison walls. Frakes has been on the job for about a year and a half.
Ricketts says Frakes has taken a number of steps to address problems plaguing the prison system, such as conducting a survey to gauge the culture at corrections, providing extra training for prison guards, using a $1.5 million retention appropriation from the legislature, and providing bonuses to members of the staff in critical roles.
“We are doing a number of things to be able to address this area and be able to get to the point where we have a corrections system where we’re retaining the quality staff we need, we’re being able to implement the programming we need for inmates so they can get the help they need so that when they get out they can become functioning members of society,” Ricketts says. “All this addresses how we need to reform corrections.”
The governor points out his administration has delivered a pay proposal to union officials a month earlier than normal.
Ricketts says it is important the prison system stabilize its staff and reduce its 30% turnover rate. That, according to Ricketts, will help corrections provide the programming necessary to prevent inmates from returning to prison after they have been released.