Report highlights continuing staff shortages at Nebraska state prisons

Sept. 19, 2023, 2:20 p.m. ·

State Penitentiary
Nebraska state prisons are having a hard time recruiting employees, despite recent pay increases and bonuses. (File Photo)

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The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is still having trouble finding enough employees, according to a recent report.

Doug Koebernick, the state’s Inspector General of Corrections, says that as of June 2023, NDCS had 377 vacancies out of more than 2500 total positions.

In November 2021, the base pay for Nebraska corrections staff was increased to $28 an hour, making it the third highest rate in the country.

Overtime pay for department staff was also temporarily doubled through July 1 of 2023.

Staff turnover has declined since the raise, but as neighboring states increase their pay and benefits, Koebernick said recruiting will continue to be a challenge.

“Nebraska did increase that rate of pay so much that they were able to do a lot of different things to try to get people in,” he said. “Now, the challenge is to continue that recruitment effort and then to retain people going forward, so we can get that number of vacancies down.”

Koebernick said the behavioral health staffing shortages are especially concerning.

Nearly half of the department’s behavioral health practitioner positions are vacant.

Koebernick said the department is able to contract medical services through a private agency, but he says corrections staff feel they are stretched thin.

“When you look at the significant amount of vacancies on the health care side of things, I think that's concerning,” he said.

Koebernick said it’s too early to tell how the new prison planned for north Lincoln will impact department staffing, but he says the new location will likely be cleaner and safer than the current facility.