Corrections Director Scott Frakes insists his department is making strides to improve conditions within the prison system, despite another assault at the Tecumseh prison.
An inmate at Tecumseh assaulted three staff members Wednesday evening.
Frakes is at a loss to explain the rash of incidents at Tecumseh, saying it is in good shape and has adequate staff.
“We are dealing with a small part of our population, but a very challenging, difficult, dangerous part of our population,” Frakes tells reporters during a news conference at the Capitol.
In early March, a disturbance at Tecumseh left two inmates dead, apparently at the hands of fellow inmates.
Frakes says reforms approved by the legislature are having a positive impact, but the pace of improvements is slower than expected.
Frakes has also released his response to a threat by the ACLU that it might file a lawsuit against the state over prison conditions, especially due to overcrowding. Frakes has acknowledged that prisons in Nebraska have populations greater than their designed capacity, but he says prison overcrowding has not reached the “emergency” stage, which would trigger immediate action to reduce prison populations.
Frakes has sent the ACLU a six-page letter. He says he expects concern to be raised about day-to-day living in the prisons as well as about the general welfare of inmates.
“But when it comes down to terms of actually being taken to court, now we’re talking about deliberate indifference,” according to Frakes. “As you take the opportunity to go through that (the letter) I believe it does a pretty good job of demonstrating that we’re not deliberately indifferent in any of the work that we are doing.”
The Nebraska Department of Corrections Services says staff members were removing a number of inmates Wednesday evening who appeared to be under the influence of homemade alcohol. One inmate swung at a guard, knocking him to the ground. The inmate walked across the room and assaulted another guard who was restraining an inmate. As other guards responded and subdued the inmate, he bit a caseworker on the thigh.