Sweep Turns Up Illegal Drugs at Nebraska Penitentiary

LINCOLN — A recent sweep by authorities at the Nebraska State Penitentiary has triggered a criminal investigation after turning up illegal drugs, alcohol, weapons and a smartphone.

Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, declined to reveal the scope of the investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol. Nor would he identify the type of illegal drugs found, saying only that the amount discovered was “unusual” and “significant.”

“The quantity is big enough it might be able to supply several distributors,” Frakes said.

The search operation comes at a time when the prison system has seen a 37 percent spike in the number of intoxicant-abuse violations over the past year. Most of the increase has been driven by the discovery of homemade alcohol at the Tecumseh State Prison, but the State Penitentiary in Lincoln also has seen a 5.5 percent increase in drug and alcohol offenses.

In June, an overdose of methamphetamine and Ecstasy killed a 22-year-old Omaha man serving time for robbery at the Tecumseh prison.

Frakes said he is hopeful that the investigation at the State Penitentiary will result in the filing of criminal charges. Cody Thomas, spokesman for the patrol, would say only that the investigation is ongoing.

About 65 corrections staff who are members of “special teams” participated in the sweep from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. The search started in an inmate’s cell, where staff members found drugs, the cellphone and three knifelike weapons.

The contraband was hidden in a space between an exterior and interior window of the cell. The inmate had managed to loosen the riveted steel frame of the interior window, providing a hiding space authorities had not seen used before. The discovery prompted prison officials to check similar windows in the prison, Frakes said.