Director Frakes Provides Updates on TSCI

Director Frakes Provides Updates on TSCI


CONTACT Dawn-Renee Smith, Communications Director

OFFICE 402-479-5713 |

March 3, 2017 (Lincoln, NE) – Director Scott R. Frakes, joined by Senator Laura Ebke, Director Scott R. Frakes delivered the following statement during a media briefing today.

The events at TSCI yesterday were serious and horrific. I will not minimize the incident. When the word “riot” is used it conjures images of a facility in chaos. TSCI was not in chaos yesterday.  A group of inmates in one half of a housing unit refused to follow the lawful orders of staff and then threatened those staff with violence. Staff pulled back to a position of safety and isolated and contained the incident. Some part of the group took this opportunity to murder two people. Their despicable actions are not a reflection of the majority of people housed in our prisons.

The word “riot” also conveys to the public a risk to their safety. No inmates were even close to breaching the secure perimeter of the facility. It is important to me to use the correct terminology, including words that represent a true picture of what is happening and the level of risk to the community.

Prison is dangerous.  The individuals housed in prison have committed crimes and many have committed significant acts of violence. We do not condone violence nor do we accept it, but we definitely expect it. Order is maintained through the consistent application of policies and rules, in concert with physical security features. Inmate movement is controlled, but they have considerable ability to move freely about the facility.

There are multiple opportunities for individuals to make bad choices and act out violently. Yesterday, they chose to injure and take the lives of other human beings and to destroy property. This is not a prison management issue; it is an individual conscience issue.

There have been accusations that yesterday’s events were a result of inadequate staffing, poor management and a variety of other factors. We will not know exactly what happened or why for some time, as investigations like this are complex. What I do feel comfortable saying is that yesterday’s events involved a group of individuals making horrible choices. Staff responded appropriately to isolate, contain, mobilize and resolve the incident. When violent crimes occur in the community we blame the person responsible. But, when these same individuals act out violently in prison there is a rush to judge the corrections system.

Across the country prison systems are experiencing the same things we are. They are seeing more violence and more disrespect and defiance from inmates. This does not reduce our responsibility to provide a safe and healthy living environment for incarcerated people.

We have made numerous improvements to TSCI over the last 18 months. These include: volunteer activities, increased programming, mission-specific housing, increased recreation access and expanded religious programs.

In addition, several other changes led to the quick resolution of the incident and to the smaller scope of the damage, such as: bars on windows, limited access to flammable materials, additional less-lethal tactical weapons, additional cameras in control centers, improved special teams coordination and enhanced emergency response training including incident command management. These and other efforts have led to progress in reducing staff turnover and improved staff morale. 

A preliminary list of damages includes:

  • 28 toilets
  • 12 interior cell windows
  • 7 exterior gallery windows
  • 1 exterior door window
  • 1 conference room door window
  • 3 control center windows
  • 2 office doors in mezzanine
  • 1 office door window on mezzanine
  • 1 large steel door to escape hatch
  • 1 duress alarm switch/button
  • 1 electronic outlet on mezzanine office
  • 20 ceiling light covers
  • 50 ceiling tiles
  • 2 security cameras
  • 2 steel benches
  • Flooring
  • Drywall in wall, ceiling, mezzanines
  • 2 ice machines
  • 2 microwaves
  • 2 irons
  • Concrete in mezzanine wall
  • 1 inmate phone
  • 2 kiosks
  • Mini yard: benches, concrete, fencing, basketball hoop

Maintenance staff are already working to repair the damage.

I have made a request to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) for a critical incident review team to investigate the incident and provide recommendations. We need a thorough review of what occurred, as well as any environmental factors that may have contributed to the incident. NIC has approved my request and will be organizing the review team.

This was a significant incident. Two people are dead. I am confident that the criminal investigation will lead to arrests and convictions. Yesterday’s events will not stop our efforts to make NDCS a safe and effective organization.