CRIME

Family of slain Nebraska prison inmate files lawsuit

The family of an inmate killed during a 2015 riot at a prison in southeast Nebraska has sued the state, saying officials failed to prevent the outbreak of violence and protect him from other inmates.

The mother of Shon Collins said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Lancaster County that the Tecumseh prison was not properly staffed on May 10, 2015, when the riot broke out. Authorities haven't charged any inmates in the death of Collins, who was 46, and Donald Peacock. Both men had been in protective custody as sex offenders.

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Correctional Services Department said Wednesday the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit does not list a specific damage figure, but Susan Collins had sought $1.2 million in damages when her claim against the state was filed. Such claims are required before lawsuits may be filed.

Prison officials have said more than 400 inmates were involved in the riot, which left several employees and inmates injured. An estimated $1.5 million in damage was caused by rioters breaking windows, ripping down walls and setting their mattresses on fire.

Several inmates had been allowed to leave their cells to get in line for the distribution of over-the-counter medication and the staffers were unable to manage them, according a review released by the prisons department six weeks after the riot. There were only 57 staff members at the facility — the minimum number required by prison policy — to manage 1,024 inmates when the riot began, the department said.

The prison has remained a troubled institution. Last month an inmate serving a life sentence for a homicide was charged with killing his cellmate, who was up for parole this month after serving a sentence for forgery and jail assault. In March two inmates were killed and others were injured after inmates revolted against staff members and started a fire in a courtyard. There also have been several attacks on guards and other prison personnel over the past year and fights between inmates.

State prisons director Scott Frakes has said the department is struggling to retain experienced correctional officers at the prison and is trying to address a growing gang problem.