LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nearly 800 Nebraska State Penitentiary inmates — more than half the Lincoln prison’s population — have signed a petition sent to state officials and various news outlets decrying conditions at the prison.
The petition, written by inmate David Gills, pans penitentiary administrators for putting the prison in modified lockdown, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Because of the lockdown, meetings of self-betterment clubs or organizations have been limited or eliminated, and inmates have seen their use of the prison law library restricted.
That restriction, the petition says, impedes prisoners' access to the courts, attorneys, legislators, judges and other legal sources.
The petition also cites multiple changes in policies, procedures, rules, memorandums, protocols and inmate movement as problems.
The petition includes the signatures of 780 men, 58% of the penitentiary population of the 1,346 recorded as of Nov. 13.
The petition was sent to the state ombudsman, state prisons’ inspector general, Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes, the Nebraska Parole Board and the state attorney general's office, among others.
Department spokeswoman Laura Strimple told the Journal Star that the department had not received the petition.
The petition is the latest point of contention in the Nebraska prison system that has been plagued by chronic overcrowding, prison uprisings, assaults on guards and prolonged staff shortages.
Among the petition’s complaints is that breakfast for inmates comes in a sack brought to cells at about 6 p.m. the night before. The amount of food is too small and not very nutritious, the petition said, and the sacks are stacked together, smashing what little food is in them.
Also among the list: Shop workers' access to showers after work is restricted; there is sporadic access to yard and recreational time, and religious practices are impeded.
"The past year here at NSP has been terrible," the petition says.
In response, Nebraska Ombudsman Carl Eskridge sent a letter to Frakes seeking a meeting to go over some of the inmates’ concerns.
Eskridge said he hoped such modified lockdowns in the wake of staff shortages aren't becoming the new norm.
“There are going to be consequences of this in terms of behaviors, and could impact people's parole access and success," he said.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com