Staffing Emergency At Nebraska State Pen Ending After 2-1/2 Years


       Nebraska Corrections Director Scott Frakes says the State Penitentiary in Lincoln, the state’s largest prison, will resume normal staffing next month after more than 2-1/2 years of a staffing emergency. 

     Due to a shortage of staff, the Penitentiary has used a 7-day, 12-hour schedule since October 2019, but Frakes says normal work schedules will return July 18. 

    Frakes told Nebraska Public Media that he credits a new contract with state workers and funding for pay increases and bonuses with helping solve his department’s recruitment and retention problems.

Corrections has hired 472 new employees so far this year, but Frakes is leaving 34 positions at the Penitentiary as 12-hour shifts, but not because of staff shortages. 

     Instead, he says it’s because prison officials learned during the emergency that having 12-hour shifts for some key positions allows more flexibility and crossover.

       The staffing emergency has had a major impact on the inmates at the penitentiary. Visitation has been reduced, breakfasts are prepared the night before and delivered cold in paper bags, and recreation and rehabilitation programs have been limited.

      Staffing emergencies remain in place at two other prisons, Tecumseh and the renamed Reception and Treatment Center in Lincoln.

      Frakes hopes to see the Lincoln center return to normal shifts this summer, but he’s afraid it may take longer to deal with Tecumseh’s staff shortages. 

      The prison’s rural small town setting has given the state problems in getting and keeping staff ever since it opened at the end of 2001.