Town hall in North Omaha addresses many problems plaguing state prisons

Dir. of Corrections was at North Omaha’s First Tuesday event
WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 10:33 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A North Omaha town hall saw an hour of frustrated comments and at times painful questions from a community demanding answers about the state of corrections in Nebraska.

In the heart of North Omaha’s 24th Street District, more than 50 people, all the Fabric Lab space would hold, were there to meet and speak with Scott Frakes, Director of Corrections for the state of Nebraska.

”You’re talking in many cases with families who have people incarcerated, they have all kinds of things they would like to know,” said organizer Preston Love. “It’s very, very important that all communities talk directly and vice versa.”

Frakes admitted to the audience that his hands were largely tied, keeping him from making the lasting changes needed to improve the system, considered one of the most overcrowded in the country. But he said a staffing crisis and the aging facilities housing inmates makes his job difficult. They seemed to embrace his honesty, as he patiently answered the serious questions.

“I’m not trying to build a prison to bring in more people, I’m trying to build something that will meet the needs of the people we have,” he said.

A new prison to replace the state’s oldest is controversial. Frakes supports it, saying he would have no way to house inmates while a badly needed renovation would be completed.

A community member asked the direct question about $230 million tentatively earmarked for a new prison.

”Why not take that money and put it into the community where you can create job programs and not make them more comfortable while they’re in prison?”

“That needs to happen,” Frakes responded. “We need to continue to put more money into community mental health because we did not, as a society, we have not done a good job there. That has to happen.”

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