Seven RTC employees sent to hospital following stabbings, assault by inmates

Five correctional officers were stabbed by three inmates at Lincoln's Reception and Treatment Center on Wednesday.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 3:50 PM CDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 10:53 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Three inmates assaulted multiple staff members at the Reception and Treatment Center (RTC) Wednesday, resulting in what NDCS is calling potentially serious injuries.

According to the Nebraska Department of Corrections, five staff members went to the hospital with injuries from being stabbed. A release from NDCS said the inmates had made their own weapons used in the attacks, and also kicked and punched staff members during the incident.

The units where the staff assaults occurred will remain on modified operations until all investigations are complete and any necessary follow-up has occurred.

NDCS said they believe the inmates who carried out the assaults were intoxicated at the time, and leading up to the incident they were being directed by staff members. In total, seven staff members were transported for medical care, including two who were injured when they responded to the scene but were not assaulted themselves.

“The injured team members were primarily concerned with the well-being of their co-workers, which is indicative of the commitment they have to each other,” said Warden Taggart Boyd. “Staff responded quickly and contained the situation within minutes.”

The unit where the incident occurred is one of two high security, maximum custody units at RTC and so far three weapons have been recovered.

“Violence toward staff members will not be tolerated,” said NDCS Director Rob Jeffreys. “Those who choose to perpetrate these acts will be dealt with accordingly, which includes internal discipline, risk mitigation, and the judicial system.”

While the injuries were serious, none are considered to be life-threatening. The Nebraska State Patrol is overseeing the investigation. Findings will be presented to the county attorney for determination of criminal prosecution.

To some, the incident underscores system-wide issues in Nebraska’s prisons: understaffing and longer shifts for officers.

“I get reports constantly that there will only be three staff on the floor on each side,” said Michael Chipman, the president of the Nebraska Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents correctional officers. “In this case, I was told there was five, but then there was not very many responders. So to give you an idea, that’s five staff with eighty inmates that are out.”

Chipman says there are 200 workers at RTC, when the prison needs 240. He said correctional officers also need stab vests to mitigate injuries in these situations. That’s a cause championed by State Sen. Tom Brewer with LB 265, which has been rolled into the larger criminal justice bill LB 50 as an amendment.

“This is exactly what we were trying to have them there to prevent,” Brewer said.

LB 50 will face it’s final round of voting on Thursday, and Brewer said he expects it to pass, which will allocate funding to NDCS to provide stab vests to prison staff.

“Anything that we can do to help them give confidence that they’ll have protection while they’re there,” Brewer said. “I think this is just one of the things we have to do because you can’t ask folks to do that job if you don’t give them the right level of protection.”

The state’s prison watchdog Doug Koebernick said his office will investigate the incident, and he said correctional officers should use body cameras.

“These can be a deterrent to staff assaults,” Koebernick said. “Currently body cameras are only utilized on a limited basis at the Nebraska State Penitentiary and the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.”