(Lincoln, NE) -- Prisons in Nebraska have seen an increase in applicants after employee salaries were raised.
On Monday, Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference to address hiring and retaining staff at Nebraska prisons. One of the initiatives covered was the 2021 pay increase for Department of Correctional Services staff, which includes an $8-an-hour pay increase and provides double-time pay for overtime.
Ricketts says the pay increase caused a recent uptick in applications for the Department of Corrections. In 2021, they received an average of 34 applications a week. In 2022, they’ve seen an average of 96 applications a week - nearly triple the number of applications compared to last year.
The Department of Correctional Services says they have also reduced their staff vacancies significantly. In 2021, the agency was at 427 vacancies. In 2022, they are at 206 vacancies. Since December, the agency has hired 267 staff members, 118 of which were from out-of-state. Although there has been an increase in staff, three facilities are still under emergency staffing operations: Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, Nebraska State Penitentiary, and the Reception and Treatment Center.
Another initiative discussed during the press conference is a partnership with the state and Peru State College, which develops a new scholarship program for criminal justice majors. Through the program, students can emphasize in corrections leadership, giving them opportunities to get hands-on experience with the Department of Correctional Services.
Nebraska Department of Corrections Director Scott Frakes says the program is a long-term investment in the Department of Correctional Services. “Here we have a program that wasn’t designed to bring staff into corrections,” Frakes said. “It truly had a mission to provide people the opportunity to complete a four-year degree in criminal justice and then use that degree to become the next generation of leaders in this agency.”