LINCOLN, Neb — On Thursday, Tecumseh State Correctional Institution faced a second riot in recent years which led to the death of two individuals serving time. The ACLU has documented experiences of hundreds of inmates who have been denied health care, access to rehabilitation programs, have been assaulted, or put into solitary confinement instead of receiving appropriate mental health care. Front line staff have shared publicly their difficult work conditions including low pay, low morale, forced overtime as well as fears about staff assaults. Nebraska’s prison system has been over emergency levels of 140% for nearly a decade.
ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad released the following statement in response to yesterday's deadly riot at Tecumseh:
“Our first thoughts are to the safety of front line prison staff and those in state custody, particularly those injured and killed due to the conditions in our prison. The most recent riot is yet another painful reminder that Nebraska’s prison system is failing our state.
“The horrific conditions of confinement rampant in Nebraska prisons threaten public safety now and into the future. For years, Nebraska corrections officials and policy makers have been aware of the inhumane conditions under which thousands of inmates have been living. Our state has failed to invest the resources needed to remedy the situation or enact meaningful criminal justice reforms. The most recent riot is another unfortunate but expected result of a system that is failing our state.
“While public safety impacts each and every Nebraskan, we must not forget that Nebraska’s prison population does not reflect our state. People of color, particularly Black Americans, Latino Americans and Native Americans, as well as people living with mental illness are dramatically overrepresented in our prison population.
“We renew our call to the Nebraska Legislature to pass meaningful reforms that are pending this session to slowly remedy the longstanding crisis in Nebraska’s prison system. We call on Governor Pete Ricketts to declare an emergency and bring smart reform now.
“Along with experts on prison litigation from around the country, the ACLU’s review of records as well as interviews with those in our prison system is nearly complete. It is not a question of whether litigation will be filed, it is a question of when. Our lawmakers must pass legislation now to minimize the additional cost to taxpayers needed to fix our failing prison system.
“Nebraskans must come together to find solutions to make smart reforms and investments in our criminal justice system to enhance safe working conditions for our public servants, safe living conditions for those in custody, and the public safety of all Nebraskans.”
Read more about the ACLU’s work to reform Nebraska’s prisons: