One new dormitory has been built at the Community Correctional Center in Lincoln.
A new women’s prison is under construction.
The state Corrections Director, though, is looking for more than just added space.
State officials have shown off the new $1.5 million, 100-bed dormitory on the Community Correction Center campus in Lincoln. Nearby, a $26 million, 160-bed women’s prison is under construction.
New construction will ease overcrowded conditions in the Nebraska prison system. The key, though, says Corrections Director Scott Frakes, is an expansion of
programs to prepare inmates for life on the outside.
“Community transition is the best answer. It doesn’t work for every person that comes into the system, unfortunately. But I came out of a system where there was inadequate resources for community transition and watched the struggles with that,” Frakes tells reporters during a tour of the new and under-construction facilities, referring to his previous stint in the state of Washington.
Nebraska has a prison overcrowding problem. At present, the prison system is at 157% of designed
capacity, actually edging downward. Not enough to satisfy the ACLU of Nebraska, which has filed a lawsuit arguing overcrowded prisons infringe on the constitutional rights of inmates.
Frakes says he understands the worries of lawmakers, urging for additional construction to ease overcrowding. Frakes says only the right kind of prison expansion can truly reduce prison populations.
“I know that I need some additional capacity. There again, what do we build?” Frakes asks. “If I build only high-
security beds, I can put anyone in them, but I can’t do the best job of meeting their needs to get them back out.”
Programs, such as work-release, can prepare prisoners for release and help them obtain the skills needed to keep from returning to prison. The inmates in the new dorm have six months or less left on their sentence. They have money which they can save, a big boost once release.
Frakes says he needs to properly assess the prison population in Nebraska and the needs of prisoners before recommending additional construction.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]