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Nebraska State Penitentiary on lockdown

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Posted at 3:08 PM, Sep 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-04 23:10:59-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) says the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln has been on lockdown since Wednesday morning.

Director Scott R. Frakes says he's taking a "no-holds-barred approach" to bringing an end to the recent rise in assaults, drug exposures and contraband at the facility.

“That will continue to be the case until further notice,” said Director Frakes. “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.”

NDCS says all visitation hours with inmates through Friday are canceled. Visitation was canceled due to reduced staffing during Labor Day, but Director Frakes says the decision to go into lockdown wasn't the result of staffing challenges.

Instead, the decision was made to undertake the actions needed to address safety.

“Over the past month or so there has been an increase in assaults, not only on staff members, but also among inmates,” added Michele Wilhelm, warden at the penitentiary. “One assault resulted in a staff member receiving treatment at the hospital. Additionally, a few inmates have received outside treatment for injuries.”

Director Frakes said that K2 (commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana) coming into the penitentiary has also been on the rise.

“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,” said Director Frakes. “That, in addition to the homemade weapons that have been discovered, represents a serious compromise to facility safety. The only way to address this is to stop all movement and thoroughly search the facility.”

Thorough searches of cells, bathrooms, dayrooms and other areas that have seen high illicit activity will be conducted. Staff members, members of the Corrections Emergency Response Team and the agency's trained canine team will assist in the search.

“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,” said Director Frakes.

Director Frakes didn't go into detail about how searches will be conducted; however, he said the agency has various tools such as handheld metal detectors, cell phone detecting devices and x-ray machines.

“Those technologies are in addition to the considerable use of personnel that will be utilized to physically search every corner, high and low,” stated Director Frakes. “Basically, anything that can be moved, disassembled or crawled into will be inspected.”