LINCOLN, Neb. Director Scott Frakes announced Friday some proactive measures the Nebraska Department of Corrections Services (NDCS) has put in place to empower team members and build a safer environment in the agency’s facilities.
“Corrections is a pivotal component of Nebraska’s law enforcement team that protects public safety,” Director Frakes said. “Police officers keep our neighborhoods safe, firefighters battle flames and our military serve at home and overseas. While our corrections officers may be less visible to the public eye, they deserve the same support as the rest of our law enforcement community receives. Professions with inherent risk include corrections, police officers, firefighters and, of course, our nation’s military. Courage, loyalty, dedication and a call to service are the qualities you find in people who do dangerous and difficult work.”
When asked why people work in these difficult and dangerous jobs, NDCS human talent director Erinn Criner said, “It is a call to service. They are driven by mission and purpose. The work they do and the impact they have on the citizens of their communities is immeasurable.”
According to NDCS, prisons operate much like small cities. They are built to support the basic day-to-day lives of hundreds of people. These cities, however, are comprised of individuals who have committed criminal acts knowing a potential consequence was prison; individuals society has deemed too dangerous to be in our community.
Like traditional law enforcement out in the community, NDCS said corrections officers work to protect public safety inside NDCS facilities. Just because an inmate is behind bars does not eliminate the risk that they will commit a new offense. NDCS officials said the department works every day to give staff members the training and resources they need to fulfill the mission to keep people safe.
“Our team members show up every day to keep dangerous people out of our communities and to ensure inmates completing their sentences are prepared to reenter society,” said Director Frakes. “Empowering our team with the resources they need to do their job and providing for their safety on the job is my top priority.”
According to NDCS, even with evidence-based programming, a segment – however small – of the NDCS population will continue to present challenges. For example, a recent assault at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution (TSCI) occurred in restrictive housing, the most secure area of the facility. The inmate was in restraints with two staff present and still managed to hurt people. Inmates, such as the one in this case, who have the intent to hurt others will always be working to find a way to do so, according to NDCS.
In a release from NDCS, the department said it is continuously looking for new ways to empower team members through improved training and greater facility security while also holding inmates accountable for their actions. The actions outlined below represent the proactive steps the agency has taken:
• Searches – increased searches of housing units, cells, common areas, kitchen workers and industries workers prevents drug-induced violence and access to weapons.
• Restrictions – removal of padlocks from inmate property; potentially flammable items from inmate canteen, and batteries from restrictive housing.
• Staff Equipment – radios with ear buds, body cameras in certain areas; increased the potency of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) staff carry for self-protection and use to end an assault or other dangerous behavior.
• Programming – increasing the amount and frequency of programming staff members deliver to inmates leads to changes in thinking and behavior. Clinical treatment, such as the Violence Reduction Program (VRP) and evidence-based programs, such as Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) and Thinking for a Change (T4C), are programs that target violence and criminal thinking.
• Centralized Intelligence Team – the efforts of this team have been integral to identifying the most violent and disruptive of our population, as well as the individuals that direct others to commit violence.
• Close Management Unit – developed a close management unit at TSCI and NSP to better manage our high risk population. The majority of the violent behavior is coming from a small percentage of the inmates. These close management units provide a secure transition process for inmates engaging in or orchestrating violence.
• Consequences & Accountability – facilities have posted notices throughout housing units that it is a felony to assault a staff member. The agency investigates all staff assaults and refers them to local county attorney for prosecution. The agency issues internal disciplinary action, including loss of good time. Inmates committing violent acts are removed from general population and placed in restrictive housing. NDCS is always working to identify new deterrents as well as leverage programming to change and minimize criminal thinking and behavior.
In addition to the measures outlined above, NDCS uses training, equipment, procedures, and on-going assessments to prevent staff assaults. The agency continues to seek out best practices within NDCS and from other corrections systems around the country. Over 3,400 of the inmates currently in NDCS have a documented history of violence.
“We are dealing with an inmate population that is comfortable using violence to get to what they want,” said Director Frakes. “Our mission to keep people safe starts with the dedicated team at NDCS. The agency leadership and the people of Nebraska are grateful to our team members for their continued service.”