Water Service Restored At State Penitentary

October 28, 2021 (Lincoln, Neb.) – Water service has been restored to the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) following repairs to pipes. Water was turned  off at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Facility maintenance workers and an external repair crew identified breaches in the pipes and worked until the pre-dawn hours Thursday to get them fixed.  Water was restored to normal operations around 2:00 a.m. this morning. 

“Facility maintenance staff are still working to resolve some carry over issues today,” said Corrections  Director Scott R. Frakes.  

“Notice was provided to all staff and inmates prior to turning off the water,” noted NSP Warden  Michele Wilhelm. “We brought in portable stools for everyone to use. We had more than 9,000  bottles of water on hand and made sure that everyone in the facility had something to drink. Use  of the showers was delayed until water service was re-established. We tried to maintain normal  operations to the extent possible.”  

Frakes said problems with pipes at the facility is not a new issue. “It is a situation that predates me, certainly. What made this unique was the cascade effect that resulted when water  was turned on again. But, when sections of the pipe are corroded, leaks and joint failures are  going to occur.”  

Frakes went on to say that “The ability to address major maintenance issues in any prison presents challenges. NDCS currently has $60 million in maintenance projects across all its facilities. Around $12.5 million of  that is for identified issues at the Penitentiary.”  

“The agency has received appropriate funding to address maintenance needs, so the backlog is  not about the money,” explained Dir. Frakes. “The challenge is making repairs within a fully occupied prison. We do not have the space or infrastructure to completely relocate inmates to  another space, while repairs are underway.”  

The Nebraska Legislature this year approved $14.9 million in state funding for the design and  siting of a new prison that will serve as a replacement for the Nebraska State Penitentiary. 

“In order to provide the most secure housing for maximum and minimum-level inmates, a new  facility is the smartest investment,” said Dir. Frakes. “Otherwise, we will never get out of the  ongoing cycle of making repairs – repairs that are even more expensive due to the age of that  facility and the issues involved with working around a higher security population.”