NE Prison Workers Cite ‘Soft’ Treatment of Inmates

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Some workers in Nebraska prisons blame “soft” treatment of unruly inmates and persistent staff turnover for recent disturbances at the Tecumseh State Prison and an increase in staff assaults, reports the Omaha World-Herald. Interviews with six corrections officers showed mounting frustrations over new disciplinary rules and what they see as inadequate attempts to address staff shortages, excessive overtime and pay issues. The department has changed its policies on sending inmates to solitary confinement, or “the hole,” when they misbehave or lash out.

One form of solitary, “disciplinary segregation,” was discontinued in July. Alternatives are now used, such as revoking television privileges or taking away “good time” reductions in a sentence. Some staffers complained the changes were rushed and poorly implemented and are perceived as reducing consequences for bad behavior. Officers said recent salary improvements were not substantial enough and that staff remain vulnerable to injury because of worker shortages and frequent demands to work overtime hours. Four inmates have died in two uprisings over the past two years at the Tecumseh prison, and officers expressed worry about their fellow employees. “Someone (on staff) at Tecumseh is going to get killed,” said Bob McAlevy, a sergeant at the women’s prison in York. “The department has always said money won’t solve the problem, but if you’re not paying enough (to keep employees), you need to spend the money.”

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