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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Beginning Prison Reform

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Last week, Nebraska’s new Corrections Department Director made a key decision regarding our state’s prison system. Less than two weeks after taking office, Scott Frakes’ message is clear: Nebraska’s Corrections Department is headed in a new direction.

On Thursday, Frakes announced he is stopping all new admissions to the department’s Reentry Furlough Program. The program was intended to help inmates re-enter society, and also allowed some to leave prison before their sentences were up. Director Frakes made his decision over concerns about the potential early release of violent criminals.

I believe that new direction from a new leader is the first step in implementing a culture of change within our state’s Corrections System.

As many of you know, I hired Director Frakes following a national search for a Corrections Director. His 32 years within the Washington Department of Corrections combines his experience at six different prisons, where he served both in uniform and administratively.
I believe that Nebraska needs leaders who put Nebraskans first.  Decisions made in the best interest of our state’s law-abiding citizens are key priorities in my administration. In my State of the State Address last month, I pointed out the need for both long and short term goals in Corrections.  In my proposed budget, I have set aside money to help fund these needs. I’ve also proposed that the department have access to funding for essential day-to-day operations, such as security, inmate costs, medical and facility costs, and county jail agreements.   

On Thursday, Director Frakes addressed state lawmakers who serve on the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. He has already started meeting with leaders within the Corrections Department and he has also committed much of his time to studying to help unearth the department’s top necessities. Last week, Director Frakes and I both met with members of the Council of State Governments (CSG). In a recent report to our state, CSG pinpointed policy options which could improve corrections and reduce prison overcrowding.    

Working together within the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government will provide comprehensive reform in Corrections. That includes a close examination of sentencing, as well as Nebraska’s good time laws. It will also require more research on mental health. Director Frakes has extensive experience working with mental health professionals to ensure delivery of effective mental health services to offenders. 

I know you are relying on Nebraska’s government to provide both fiscal leadership and public safety in our great state, and I look forward to working with Director Frakes. I will rely on his thorough research, innovative thinking, and years of expertise to help get Nebraska’s Corrections System back on track. Frakes’ recent decision was the first and crucial step to the many years of work ahead.

Hearing from you is also an important part of helping my administration Grow Nebraska.  I look forward to input from people all across our state.  As always, you are welcome to contact my office at (402) 471-2244, or by email at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov.