NDCS to explore options for construction of new prison

A man who was serving a life sentence in a 1994 murder-for-hire plot in Tennessee is out of prison. / (MGN)
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LINCOLN, Neb. -- On Tuesday, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services announced it will explore options for constructing a new prison in the state.

NDCS Director Scott Frakes said he will soon be issuing a request for information (RFI) for the "construction, maintenance and creation of new prison capacity."

“In particular, this will allow for the exploration of a public-private partnership that could provide certain benefits to the state including an accelerated timeline to build and a long term lease agreement, with the potential to own any new facility at the end,” Frakes said.

A public-private partnership would mean the prison would be funded by a private corporation, but the state would manage staff and lease the facility from the corporation.

A spokesperson for NDCS says the director's initial thought would be the facility would hold 1,600 beds and be between Omaha and Lincoln. However, the RFI will determine the specifics of the proposed facility.

According to a release by NDCS, a report authored by the JFA Institute projected that male admissions to NDCS would increase at an average rate of 2.5 percent each year over the next decade. The female population could be expected to increase at an average of 2.0 percent annually during the same time frame.

Currently, prisons in Nebraska are operating at 116.44 percent of capacity, with the highest being the Diagnostic & Evaluation Center in Lincoln, which is currently at roughly 198 percent capacity.

Frakes said at this point, he did not have initial projections concerning the cost of any new construction projects.

NDCS is exploring a "Build-lease partnerships have been explored and utilized by other states as a means to cover immediate construction costs and spread the payments over time," the release states.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad released the following statement on the idea of the possible new prison built through the public-private partnership:

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad says building any new prison – including one potentially built by and leased from a private entity – will only add to current problems while costing taxpayers millions.

“I cannot understand why the department would want to embrace a business model that depends on locking up more and more of our Nebraska neighbors,” Conrad said. “Nebraska is struggling to adequately staff the facilities we already have and partnering with a private company only opens the door for increased human rights violations that we’ve seen in other states. We should be focused on diverting people out of our prison system and reuniting families instead of building new beds in a never-ending attempt to keep up with our broken system of mass incarceration.”

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