LINCOLN — Two prison inmates claim that overcrowding at the state prison in Tecumseh is causing them emotional distress and is producing dangerous inmates such as Nikko Jenkins.
The two inmates, in a 17-page lawsuit filed Friday in Lancaster County District Court, said Gov. Dave Heineman and other prison officials have failed to address the overcrowding, which has caused several problems, including slow response to medical emergencies and a violation of standards for the space allowed each inmate.
The lawsuit, filed by inmates Dukhan Mumin and Khalid Muhammad, also claims there are not enough prison jobs for inmates, not enough legal aid to help inmates and discrimination against African-American inmates, who are more likely to be placed in disciplinary segregation than white inmates.
Officials with the Nebraska Department of Correction Services have declined to comment on the suit.
The state prison system has been 50 percent or more above capacity in recent months, holding about 1,600 more prisoners than design capacity and forcing double-bunking of many cells.
The two inmates also claim prison officials ignored pleas from Jenkins that he needed mental health treatment because he feared he would “hurt someone” if he was released from prison. Jenkins is accused of four slayings in Omaha that occurred within a month of his release from state prison on July 30.
“It is the lack of programming and treatment at (Tecumseh State Correctional Institution) that produced prisoner Jenkins,” stated the lawsuit.
Prison records indicate Jenkins was diagnosed with a personality disorder that officials have said could not be helped by mental health treatment. Jenkins was held for a time at the Tecumseh prison.
The two inmates, who have each filed dozens of lawsuits previously against prison officials, are representing themselves and have asked a judge to waive the $82 filing fee for a civil lawsuit. The lawsuit will not be officially filed until the judge grants the inmates pauper status or the filing fee is paid.
The pair are asking for $20 million each in damages for emotional distress and $60 million each in punitive damages.