State Corrections Director Scott Frakes says he has theories about the unrest in the state prisons which has led to recent confrontations between inmates and guards, but no hard evidence to point to a cause.
Frakes, speaking to state lawmakers during a legislative hearing at the Capitol, says part of the problem is a lack of programs in the prisons.
“I believe that the growing civil disobedience in the country is reflected in the prison population to some degree,” Frakes testifies. “We know that security threat groups are certainly contributing to this.”
When asked about the term “security threat groups,” Frakes explains they are commonly referred to as gangs. He says gangs have been trying to take over the prisons, just as they try to takeover neighborhoods in cities such as Omaha.
Staff shortages play a role, both because more corrections officers have to work longer shifts and fewer officers are available to provide the programming needed to train inmates to live on the outside upon release.
Frakes says his staff has expressed concern about their pay, the voice they have in running the department, and the long hours they have been forced to work.
Frakes says inmates need something to do, something to combat idleness.
“If there is nothing productive to do, then people tend to get into trouble,” according to Frakes.
Frakes says he needs to improve the department’s track record on hiring and keeping good employees. He says that would allow him to offer the programs inmates need to reduce the idleness as well as better prepare them for life on the outside.