Nebraska State Penitentiary

Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln

The Nebraska Department of Corrections -- our prisons -- remains in crisis, more severe now than ever.

Overpopulation is the root of problems. But Corrections Director Scott Frakes continues to attempt to address understaffing. So far unsuccessfully. While he makes futile efforts to “build his way” out of overcrowding.

Inspector General Koebernick calls the situation “quite disturbing.” ("Watchdog: State pen situation ‘disturbing’," Aug. 22). He has been sounding this alarm for several years. (Julie Rogers has been saying the same about the Geneva girls’ facility!) Sen. Steve Lathrop has expressed some concern but has not revealed adequate alarm in face of the crisis.

Despite these outcries, multiple news articles, disturbing reports, national analyses, stakeholder meetings -- where problems of overcrowding, understaffing, low morale, lack of programming, services to the mentally ill, threats of legal action from the ACLU and the federal government -- were both revealed and solutions given. Yet, little has been done.

The exception is the classy, 100-bed community corrections facility for women in Lincoln. In contrast, $45 million has been requested to build a maximum-security, 384-bed facility at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. A 19th-century solution for a 21st-century problem!

We need dramatic action. Frakes says too many new inmates are being sent to him by judges and courts.

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* Attention judges and legislators: More diversion and probation.

* Attention parole board: 1,000 inmates are eligible for parole.

* Attention Legislature and Department of Parole: Programs for released inmates are inadequate.

* Attention advocates and community educators: There's too little concern by community of problem.

John Krejci, Lincoln

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