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Nebraska prison staff shortage halved in four-month span

Posted at 6:58 PM, Mar 07, 2022

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — After a major staff shortage within the Nebraska Department of Corrections last year, the issue appears to be improving.

Last November, Nebraska prisons had a staff shortage of more than 400 unfilled jobs before the Corrections union and the state made an agreement.

That labor agreement seemingly made the job as a corrections officer into a more alluring job.

The state poured in millions to corrections staff with pay raises of eight dollars an hour: a pay bump of over $16,000 a year. Plus they added signing bonuses and two and a half times pay for overtime.

Now, Gov. Pete Ricketts says the state receives an average of 100 applications a week.

“We’ve nearly tripled the number of applications we’re receiving per week and that’s allowed to cut our staffing vacancies by more than half,” said Ricketts.

The 427 vacancies have now gone to 207 unfilled jobs. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes says 118 of the people signing on are coming from out of state.

“That’s definitely a reflection of a combination of a correct level of compensation, hiring bonuses that we offered for people from out of state and the moving expense reimbursement,” said Frakes.

Ricketts and Frakes also applauded a new corrections program that allows for criminal justice majors to focus on corrections leadership and intern at the Tecumseh State Prison.

“We don’t believe there’s another program like that anywhere in the country,” said Ricketts.

Frakes says 18 students have already signed up and the program has room to grow.

He hopes that graduates will be able to step into leadership positions at corrections right out of college.

“You can use that degree and that experience as interns at Tecumseh, to be the next generation of leaders for this agency,” said Frakes.

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