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Safety and health concerns high among Nebraska prison workers, survey shows

June 15, 2016

Lincoln, NE – Nebraska prison officials need to address inmate violence against employees – as well as the overall safety culture – in the state’s correctional facilities, according to the results of a survey of correctional workers released June 1 by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

Researchers surveyed 471 NDCS workers on workplace culture. Safety was a dominant theme in participants’ responses, with workers reporting that inmates have become “more demanding, disrespectful of authority and violent.” Other findings:

  • Workers are worried about their ability to do their job while exhausted from a 16-hour shift.
  • Workers feel they are not trained on job-related risks.
  • Employees who call in sick after working required overtime put additional strain on managers and other workers.
  • Workers want the reinstatement of physical fitness standards so new employees are deemed “fit to do the job.”
  • Inmate-to-worker ratios are “out of balance,” and the current staff is expected to manage a growing inmate population.

“This survey is a valuable tool and I value every employee’s contribution to the study and I appreciate and commend their honesty. Our teammates cannot focus on their critically important jobs in an unhealthy environment. We will use the study results to identify areas that need attention,” department Director Scott Frakes said in a press release.

The report states that the department has made progress by increasing the potency of pepper spray, obtaining updated radios and evaluating security equipment needs, among other measures.