State Penitentiary placed on lockdown Wednesday

Corrections officials said the Nebraska State Penitentiary was placed on lockdown Wednesday morning. 

The move comes amid a recent increase in assaults, drug exposures and contraband at the prison.

Director Scott Frakes said in a news release he is a taking a “no-holds-barred” approach to fixing the issues. 

“That will continue to be the case until further notice,” Frake said. “During this time we will have staff members doing organized and intensive searches of housing units, looking specifically for alcohol, drugs, weapons and cell phones.”

Director Frakes said the decision to go into lockdown was not the result of staffing challenges, but a decision to undertake actions necessary to address safety.

All visitation hours with inmates through Friday are canceled, and visitation was canceled due to reduced staffing during the Labor Day holiday. 

The release said the prison has seen an increase in assaults of both staff members and inmates. Three staff members were assaulted by an inmate in a dining hall earlier this week. One was hospitalized for a cut beneath their eye, NDCS officials said. 

Frakes said the introduction of synthetic marijuana, commonly called K2, in to the prison has been on the rise, and that several vials of the substance were confiscated in the past month. 

“No matter if it’s K2, alcohol or other substances, staff members are dealing with inmates who are intoxicated and are often confrontational when they are in that state,” Frakes said.

Frakes also said homemade weapons had been discovered that represent a “serious compromise to facility safety.” 

Frakes said staff members will be conducting searches of cells and other facility areas in the coming days. Members of the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) will also assist in those efforts, as well as the agency’s trained canine team.

“We will ramp up searches over the next several days to the highest level possible. We want to identify not only where the contraband is being hidden, but if possible, how it is coming in,” Frakes said. 

The news release did not go into the specifics about how the search will be conducted, but it did say the agency has handheld metal detectors, cell phone detecting devices and x-ray machines. 

 

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