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Prison Investigations Examined

Wrongdoing in the State’s prisons, and how it’s investigated, are being examined by a Committee of the Legislature.  Cases ranging from murder, assault, drugs, and staff contraband to less critical rule violations are all investigated by Corrections Department personnel.  That’s not sufficient, according to State Senators Anna Wishart of Lincoln and Justin Wayne of Omaha.  Each has a bill on file that would transfer all prison and Corrections Department investigations to the State Patrol.

Wishart said currently the Department has two investigators who have received certified law enforcement training, but said at least 10 are needed.  She also questioned whether internal investigators are able to be thorough and impartial.

“It is my current belief that current criminal investigations are understaffed, and the Legislature is not receiving a full picture of the problems within our State facilities.”

Wayne said no department should ever investigate itself.  He added that investigators who aren’t fully trained are likely to conduct incomplete investigations or come to incorrect conclusions.

“I think Law Enforcement agencies are the ones who should be entitled and should be rightfully used to make sure there is probable cause for an investigation, probable cause to charge or not charge criminals, and then later turn that over to a prosecutor.

State Corrections Director Scott Frakes told the Judiciary Committee Wednesday that he opposes transferring investigations in the Prisons to the State Patrol.

“Removing investigators from NDCS and placing them in another agency would seriously weaken the ability to perform internal investigations and gather intelligence.”

Frakes said the State Patrol already is called in to investigate serious crimes such as murders and assaults, and that the two agencies have a good working relationship.  He said minor investigations that don’t rise to the level of serious crimes, such as staff rule infractions, should not be turned over to outside investigators.  “We operate in real time” said Frakes.  He said waiting for another agency to assign personnel and conduct an investigation would slow down the process, potentially delaying the resolution of problems.

The head of the State Patrol, Colonel John Bolduc, also testified against the bill, saying he believes the Patrol’s working relationship with Corrections is already smooth and does not need to be changed.


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