Monday, December 2, 2013

Nebraska prisoners sue state over prison crowding

Two Nebraska inmates are suing the state's new corrections director, alleging overcrowding at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution is resulting in the intentional infliction of emotional distress, reported the Lincoln Journal Star.

The two inmates allege the Department of Correctional Services Director Michael Kenney and more than three dozen others, including Gov. Dave Heineman, have breached their duty by allowing such conditions to exist and failing to take steps to alleviate them.

The men want $20 million each for what they call intentional infliction of emotional distress and another $60 million each for punitive damages.

The civil lawsuit say that because of overcrowding they get a fifth of the 50 square feet of living space listed in guidelines by the American Correctional Association, the prison's ventilation system in grossly inadequate to prevent mold and other contaminants, and it often takes several minutes for staff to respond to medical emergencies.

"If a prisoner is having a heart attack or is being attacked by his cellmate, the response time would cost him his life," they wrote, reported the Journal Star.

Nebraska’s nine prisons have room for 3,175 inmates and hold 4,782 -- about 151 percent of capacity. That's projected to hit 188 percent by 2020 unless changes are made. Reaching 140 percent of capacity triggers a report to the governor, who can declare an emergency; Heineman has not done so. That level also can be a benchmark federal judges use to order construction of new cells.

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