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Nebraska’s Corrections Department is in disarray and stands in desperate need of reform. Last week another inmate from the Tecumseh State Prison died. Daelan LaMere was the fourth inmate to die this year, and he was only 22 years old. Although his official cause of death has not yet been determined, methamphetamines and Ecstasy were found in his bloodstream. The obvious question we should be asking is: How did he obtain these illicit drugs in a medium-maximum security prison?
Drug abuse is a major concern in our prisons. According to a recent press release from Director, Scott Frakes, “More than 80 percent of the prison population has some level of substance abuse issues, which creates an environment of demand.” If we know that demand for drugs and alcohol runs high, how is it that inmates continue to obtain them?
Security at the Tecumseh facility has become much too porous. For instance, the number of alcohol and drug related violations at the Tecumseh facility alone has increased from 200 charges to almost 700 charges within the past year. Somehow alcohol and illicit drugs are finding their way into our medium-maximum security prison, and something has to be done to prevent it.
Some of the problems are internal. Two other inmates died at the Tecumseh prison back in March when 60 inmates took over a housing unit for over three hours. After covering their faces with bandannas, they set fire to mattresses and assaulted other inmates. Just as disturbing, though, was the fact that authorities discovered a large stash of fermented fruit alcohol. Apparently, the inmates had found a way to make their own alcohol inside the prison.
The problems at the Department of Corrections are not limited to drugs and alcohol. In April the Omaha World Herald released findings from their own investigative report, showing that 78 convicted felons had refused DNA testing, which is required by State law. Since the release of their report the number has decreased to 13 inmates who have refused the testing. But, why wasn’t the DNA testing being administered to all of the inmates prior to April?
There is no question that Director, Scott Frakes, inherited a mess to clean up. However, security and discipline, especially at the Tecumseh facility, needs to improve rapidly. Senators on the Judiciary Committee remain baffled by these stories and others, and they are now considering launching their own investigation. The bottom line is that security and discipline in our prisons must improve significantly this year.