The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services released a report Wednesday that outlines progress it has made on programming, improved security, mission-specific housing and construction projects, and added prison beds.

Director Scott Frakes said the department has an "unparalleled commitment" to charting a new course for the agency and deepening public trust.

The report highlights work done between July 2016 and June 2017, and corrections reform from February 2015 through October 2017.

“Everything we accomplish is done in the middle of a high-risk setting that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year,” Frakes said in a news release.

The prisons have had numerous incidents, two riots, assaults by inmates on staff members, escapes and violent deaths of five inmates since February 2015. Those have taken time and resources away from the reform efforts, Frakes has said. 

Highlights of the report include:

* A $207 million investment in state general fund dollars that will increase to $211 million in fiscal year 2018;

* A 500 percent increase in capacity of the department's violence-reduction program;

* A 59 percent increase in vocational and life-skills participants within the prisons;

* Partnerships with grant-funded and volunteer organizations;

* Improvements to safety efforts, including stepped-up searches for contraband, investments in equipment, addition of less-lethal weapons for crowd control, resiliency training, increases in emergency drills, addition of supervisory sergeants, dialogue sessions on staff safety, email provision to all staff, increased visibility of management, and middle-management leadership training;

* Increased retention strategies, including a recruiting bonus for the Nebraska State Penitentiary and Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, and merit pay incentive for Tecumseh;

* A 25 percent increase in mission-specific housing;

* Addition of prison beds at Community Corrections Center-Lincoln and startup construction of a reception and treatment center in Lincoln.

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee will meet Friday morning for interim study hearings on recruitment and retention efforts by the department and the work detail and work release at the community corrections centers.

The Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee will meet in the afternoon. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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