LINCOLN — Nebraska Corrections officials issued a formal request for information on Monday, seeking ideas from private firms on how to build and finance a 1,200- to 1,800-bed medium/maximum security prison to alleviate years of prison overcrowding.

The new prison, which is expected to cost upward of $240 million, would be built by a private company and then leased back to the state for up to 30 years. The State of Kansas recently opened such a “design/build/finance” prison with the nation’s largest private prison firm, CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America.

In bold letters, the request for information emphasizes that “operational staff will be NDCS (Nebraska Department of Correctional Services) employees.” Privately staffed and managed prisons have stirred controversy and bans on such private prisons in some states.

The nine-page request said that at least 320 acres of land would be required for the new prison, and that it should be located in an area that has sufficient transportation, health care services and available workforce. Estimates on the cost of operating the new prison also are being sought.

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Responses from potential contractors are scheduled to be opened on May 27. Corrections officials have said they hope to have a concrete proposal for building a new prison by this fall, when requests are due for the next two-year state budget.

Nebraska’s prison system has been overcrowded for years and now holds about 2,000 more inmates than its 10 prisons are designed to hold. A recent projection indicated that over the next decade, the inmate population will grow by another 1,600 prisoners.

The ACLU of Nebraska has sued the state for its prison overcrowding, saying that it has led to substandard health and mental health care for inmates.

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.

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