Nebraska's prison overcrowding a factor in recent violence, expert says
The State Penitentiary in Lincoln remained on lockdown Wednesday following a disturbance involving a group of inmates and staff members. The lockdown began Tuesday evening.
Officials said a group of inmates gathered and converged on staff and that's when a warning shot was fired from the tower.
Also during this time, groups of inmates throughout the facility became defiant to staff directives and verbally aggressive. Nobody was injured, but disturbances like this seem to be trending at Nebraska State Correctional facilities.
Ever since the riot broke out at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, back in May of last year it seems a domino effect has taken place throughout the state. While most state prisons are running at -- or over capacity, Nebraska seems to be running extremely over capacity at 150 percent.
According to Doctor Benjamin Steiner, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at The University Of Nebraska, Omaha overcrowding isn't just decreasing the amount of space that prisons have to work with it's also decreasing opportunities for inmates -- which increases the risk of violence.
"So let's say that you devoted a day room for a substance abuse class, well, you have to have a place for people to sleep, so as soon as the prison starts to go over capacity, they might fill that day room with bunks for seemingly low risk inmates, but now, you've taken away an activity that an inmate can be involved in and potentially helped by,” said Steiner. "And it's not surprising to me, that you would have problems when you're running that high."
Building more jails with more beds, would be a short-term solution, he says, but prison population is determined by three specific concepts.
"Who's coming in the door, you know, how many people are coming to prison, how long they're staying there, and then, who's coming back,” he said.
Doctor Steiner says you would need to curb one or all of these things to see a decrease in the population. It’s something that’s absolutely necessary, he says, for safety both inside and outside prison walls.
Doctor Steiner also says Nebraska prisons have had a problem with over-crowding since the 1980's. In the 90's, several states received money from the federal government to build more prisons and Nebraska didn’t. So essentially, Nebraska’s capacity was not increased at the same rate as other states.