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K2, handmade tattoo machine, smuggled cellphone found during search of State Penitentiary

K2, handmade tattoo machine, smuggled cellphone found during search of State Penitentiary

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LINCOLN — Syringes, homemade weapons and the synthetic marijuana K2 were among the items found during emergency searches last week at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, officials said Wednesday.

An increase in staff assaults and a hike in contraband smuggled into the State Pen prompted corrections officials to order a lockdown on Sept. 4 and conduct searches of the state’s largest prison. The facility went to a modified lockdown Friday, with normal operations resuming Monday.

State Corrections Director Scott Frakes said Wednesday that the searches yielded the sort of items that he expected.

“Obviously, you never know what might turn up. But, the fact that we were able to find so many different things shows me that this effort was well worth it,” he said.

Items seized included makeshift tattoo machines, a variety of homemade weapons, syringes and lighters. Numerous drugs were also found, the department said, along with K2, which was discovered inside cigarettes, wrapped in small bundles and loose in baggies. K2 has been blamed, in part, for the spike in assaults because intoxicated inmates act aggressively.

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A corrections spokeswoman declined to say how much of the drug was found or the exact extent of the searches.

Mike Chipman, the president of the union that represents prison security staff, said he hoped that every nook and cranny of the facility was searched.

“That was our expectation,” Chipman said, adding that the union was pleased that the searches had taken place in hopes of protecting staff.

Frakes said one of the most interesting items found was a smartphone concealed inside of one of the tablet computers available for purchase by inmates. The tablet had been altered so the phone would fit snugly inside the computer case, he said, illustrating the lengths inmates will go to hide smuggled items.

The prison director added that there will be continued vigilance in identifying how contraband finds its way into a facility. Last week, both a staff member and a visitor were arrested for allegedly smuggling items, Frakes said.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.