LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The head of Nebraska's Department of Correctional Services received a 30% raise this year.
Director Scott Frakes saw his salary increase to $250,000 in January from his previous $192,000 salary.
Nebraska's governor defended the large raise for Frakes even as two state senators criticized the move as unjustified.
"Six years ago Gov. Ricketts took over a corrections department in crisis," said Gov. Pete Ricketts' spokesman Taylor Gage. "Now that the department is trending in a positive direction with increased capacity, reduced staff turnover, and more rehabilitative outcomes for inmates, Gov. Ricketts wanted to acknowledge Scott's successes, and wanted the continuity of Scott's leadership at the department through the governor's second term."
Omaha Sens. Steve Lathrop and Ernie Chambers told the Omaha World-Herald that they were surprised at the raise, given the overcrowding and staff shortages within state prisons.
"(Frakes) has presented no plan for alleviating the overcrowding, and has demonstrated an unwillingness to work with the Legislature to find solutions," Lathrop said. "I can't conceive of a reason to give someone a $60,000 raise when our prison staffing is out of whack and our prisons are No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation in overcrowding."
Nebraska's prisons hold about 2,000 more inmates than their current design capacity of 3,500, according to the Department of Correctional Services. Overcrowding has forced some prisoners to sleep on cots on the floor, while others double-bunk in cells designed for one inmate. Crowding and staffing shortages have also made it more difficult to provide prisoners with rehabilitative programming that could reduce their odds of re-offending.
Gage said Frakes can't be blamed for overcrowding because he doesn't control how many inmates are sent to prison.
Kevin Kempf, executive director of the Idaho-based Correctional Leaders Association, said that Frakes is one of the best prison directors in the nation and is performing an extremely challenging job.
"The stress of politics, unions, inmate families, staff, disturbances, threats against your life, constant need for security, low pay, and an average tenure of less than three years is unique to any other leadership role in state government," Kempf said