(KFOR NEWS October 24, 2019) On Thursday, Scott Frakes said the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) would immediately launch substantial new initiatives to hire and retain protective service staff members at its three largest male facilities. The announcement comes as the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) moves into modified operations* to allow for implementation of a new 12-hour operation schedule.
“The facility was placed on lockdown* on Wednesday so that senior management of that facility could start the process of developing the new schedule and identifying staffing needs,” said Director Frakes.
The penitentiary will remain on modified operations until Tuesday, during which time all inmate visitation will be canceled. Visitation is normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“We have been monitoring staffing levels at the penitentiary closely for months. Staffing vacancies have led to frequent modifications to operations, impacting facility safety. It is necessary at this time to put the facility on a more manageable and consistent schedule.”
Director Frakes said that in order to facilitate that process immediately, he was required under the current labor contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 88 and NAPE AFSCME to declare a staffing emergency.
“This is not being initiated by any particular incident at the penitentiary,” explained Director Frakes. “To be clear, being on modified operations is a temporary move that will allow us to implement the necessary staffing adjustments.”
One of those changes will require many staff to move from eight hour to 12-hour shifts. “Broad use of 12-hour shifts is not a long term plan. But it will permit time to implement the new hiring and retention initiatives, onboard new groups of employees and stabilize the staffing situation,” said Director Frakes.
Those initiatives include a $10,000 hiring bonus for new corporals hired at NSP, the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution (TSCI), and the Lincoln Correctional Center/Diagnostic and Evaluation Center (LCC/DEC). This hiring bonus is more than three times the amount of the previous bonus offered to new employees, which was $3,000. There is also a $10,000 bonus available to teammates who refer additional people for hire at NSP and TSCI. Teammates employed today at NSP will receive an automatic $500 bonus at the end of the year.
“We’ve had some success with the incentive programs we have offered before, but this kicks it up to an entirely new level,” said Director Frakes. “I am highly encouraged that monetary offers of this size will have significant impact.”
Director Frakes said that the new 12-hour schedule will be implemented at the start of next week. Shift staff will work four consecutive 12-hour days with three days off. A portion of staff had previously requested and were approved to work 12-hour shifts. “The expanded use of 12-hour shifts is necessary for the safe and effective operation of the facility.”
Once more staff members are hired and trained, Director Frakes said the facility will return to normal hours of operation.