Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse says he’s satisfied with how the state has responded to the riot which left four injured and two dead at the Tecumseh prison.
But, Watermeier says he worries how the aftermath of the riot will impact local governments.
“I hate to use their incident with two deaths and a riot as a stage, but I need to use this to highlight the costs that are going to be coming down to Johnson County,” Watermeier says.
Watermeier estimates prosecuting all the cases which will arise from the riots will cost Johnson County at least $100,000. He says the two autopsies, required by state law, will cost approximately $4,500 each.
While counties with prisons get to count the prison population in their census, that bit of a boost doesn’t offset the expenses they incur, according to Watermeier. Or, at least, not in the case of Tecumseh, located in southeastern Nebraska’s Johnson County, in which many of the workers don’t even live in the county. Many commute from Lincoln and Omaha.
Watermeier says the legislature also needs to address the need for prison workers to receive better pay and for prisoners to receive better treatment.
Of the inmates incarcerated in Nebraska prisons, an estimated 35% suffer mental illness, according to Watermeier. Nationally, around 24% of the nation’s prisoners suffer mental illness.
“So, that difference in there is part of the issue,” Watermeier says. “I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t want to say that’s the only thing, but that’s part of it.”
Watermeier says that needs to be addressed in Nebraska with more resources allocated both to mental health treatment as well as to the treatment of substance abuse and to job training.
The Department of Correctional Services reported Thursday Tecumseh remains on lockdown. Caseworkers remain on 12-hour shifts, four days a week.
Prisoners are being served three meals a day; a hot meal for breakfast, a sack lunch, and a hot meal for dinner.
Inmate movement remains limited. Inmates are not permitted to loiter on the yard or in a living unit. Showers are limited to 10 minutes. Inmates can make telephone calls for as long as 15 minutes.
Medication is being distributed as needed.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]