The new Nebraska Corrections Director says the culture at Corrections is changing.
But, Scott Frakes admits change is coming slowly.
Frakes arrived in Nebraska with the task of reforming a Department of Correctional Services under increasing scrutiny for miscalculation of prison sentences, the treatment of Nikko Jenkins, convicted of killing four in Omaha after being released from prison, as well as other missteps.
Then, inmates rioted at the Tecumseh state prison last month.
“I’ll be very honest and say I’ve had a few sleepless nights in the last five weeks. Ah, not sleepless; just not as good as they needed to be,” Frakes tells reporters during a news conference. “At the same time, each day when I get up, I’m energized, I’m excited about it.”
Frakes sees the culture changing, embodied in staff finding more mistakes in prison sentence calculations which could lengthen the sentences of 2,000 inmates. Frakes says staff discovered the mistake made in sentence calculations during a project to fully automate the system.
“There needs to be a clear message across the agency that it’s okay to find a problem and bring it forward,” Frakes says. “In fact, it’s not just that it’s okay; that is the expectation. That is how business needs to be done.”
Frakes says he encountered a culture of fear within the department.
Frakes says if Corrections staff are afraid to identify problems and afraid to bring problems forward he will find himself in the same situation that has “haunted” the department for the past couple of years.
Frakes says he expects problems to be brought to his attention. He says he wants to hear from employees and has taken steps to encourage staff to talk with him. Frakes says he wants to reinforce to staff that it is okay to make an honest mistake, that there is value in making honest mistakes, because it is an opportunity to learn.
Frakes says he wants to build a culture where most of focus is catching people doing things right.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]