A second search Wednesday of the Nebraska State Penitentiary, using multiple agencies, including SWAT members and K-9 teams, has resulted in confiscation of more contraband, Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes said.
“This was a first-of-its-kind operation for Nebraska’s prison system. It has been kept under wraps for weeks,” he said. “It had to be; otherwise, the effectiveness would have been completely compromised.”
The day-long searches, beginning 90 minutes after a lockdown was imposed at 4:30 a.m., were conducted by members of Corrections staff, the Nebraska State Patrol and Lincoln Police Department. Members of the department's Corrections Emergency Response Team and the Special Operations Response Team also took part.
Outside of the normal staff contingent, more than 100 people were involved, Frakes said.
“We also had specially trained K-9 dogs from an outside organization on site to expedite the process,” Frakes said. “In terms of personnel from outside NDCS, we had nearly 40 additional individuals — all bringing their expertise and law enforcement technology to bear."
It would not have been possible without the support of those agencies, he said. "I appreciate that they immediately understood the need and benefit of such an operation."
The operation, that was more than a month in the planning, collected more drugs and homemade weapons, Frakes said.
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“I said we would be taking a no-holds-barred approach, and I was serious,” he said.
The contraband search follows a Sept. 4 partial sweep of the prison that found homemade weapons, cellphones, drugs and other items.
In the annual report of the Nebraska inspector general for corrections released Monday, Doug Koebernick was critical of that first search, saying staffers were concerned that parts or all of some housing units were not searched at that time.
Koebernick also said that in August, the penitentiary was on modified operations after a serious inmate assault, and 11 inmates were treated for being under the influence of K-2, a synthetic form of marijuana. Earlier that month, there was a day when at least 15 inmates were treated for K-2.
Contraband has been a big concern, he said, with the penitentiary inmates having K-2, illegal alcohol, weapons and cellphones. Contraband has been found at other prisons, but not as extensive as at the state penitentiary.
For Wednesday's search, inmates and staff members were notified the penitentiary was going on lockdown at about 4:30 a.m. The facility was expected to return to normal operations by the end of the day.
“This was a completely strategic operation and well thought out,” Frakes said. “The inspector general has been critical over the last few days, implying that the search of the penitentiary on September 4th was incomplete. Today’s larger operation was always part of a bigger plan.”
Frakes said what happens inside the prisons impacts what is happening on the street and vice-versa.
He wouldn't offer details about which areas of the prison were searched Wednesday.