‘Staffing emergency’ prompts longer shifts at 2 prisons

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Employees at two Nebraska prisons will have to work longer shifts and may be asked to clock in at a facility where they don't normally work to compensate for staffing shortages, the state corrections director announced Monday.

Director Scott Frakes said he has declared a “staffing emergency” at the Lincoln Correctional Center and the Diagnostic Evaluation Center, located next to each other in Lincoln. Prison officials will implement 12-hour shifts for some employees, up from the usual 8.

In a press release, Frakes said “there will be situations where staff members will be asked to work in the opposite facility. In essence, the facilities will coordinate together.”

Frakes said the move was driven largely by a slowdown in hiring, similar to what employers have faced with the tight labor market in Nebraska and nationally. Nebraska's corrections department has struggled for years to hire and retain staff members, a problem union officials have said is caused by higher-paying jobs in county prisons and tough working conditions.

The Diagnostic Evaluation Center is the intake facility for all adult males entering the state prison system. The Lincoln Correctional Center is a maximum-security male facility with housing for residential mental health services. Construction is underway to connect the two facilities.

Two larger state prisons, the Nebraska State Penitentiary and Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, have operated with 12-hour shifts since 2019 to address similar staffing shortages.