Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist blames Gov. Pete Ricketts for problems within the state prison system, but the governor says the system is improving.
Krist has blamed the Ricketts Administration for prison problems. He reiterated those criticisms during their debate at the State Fair in Grand Island Thursday.
Krist was asked after the debate is Gov. Ricketts to blame for riots which have left inmates dead?
“Does the buck stop at his desk?” Krist asked. “He has a director in corrections right now that continues to try to change culture and what’s happening within the system is a completely unsafe environment. They haven’t fixed it.”
Krist has called for the firing of Corrections Director Scott Frakes.
Ricketts backs Frakes and said after the debate that years of under-funding has hurt the Department of Correctional Services. He said his administration has been devoting more money to prison improvements and inmate programs.
“So, we’ve stabilized the environments. We’ve worked hard,” Ricketts said. “We’ve got more work to do, there’s no doubt, but we’ve made terrific improvements.”
Two violent incidents at the state prison in Tecumseh stand out.
In March of last year, two inmates died in a disturbance at the prison when an inmate set a fire inside a housing unit at Tecumseh. About 40 inmates took over Housing Unit 2AB for more than three hours March 2nd. After restoring order, Tecumseh officials discovered two inmates dead.
A riot broke out at Tecumseh on Mother’s Day in 2015. Inmates destroyed Housing Unit 2. Two guards and four inmates were injured, two were killed during the riot.
A large group of inmates gathered outside Housing Unit 1. Guards attempted to break up the gathering, but were attacked. Warning shots were fired from the guard tower in the middle of the Tecumseh prison yard, but inmates failed to disperse. A guard then shot and wounded one inmate. Another inmate suffered wounds from rubber bullets. Two inmates suffered injuries at the hands of other inmates.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]