Citizens are first overnight ‘inmates’ at new jail

By Jake Bockoven, NewsNetNebraska

The first inmates to stay overnight at the new Lancaster County Adult Detention had to pay $30 in order to do so.

Three months before the new jail officially opens, officials invited law-abiding citizens to stay one night in jail from April 5th-7th, for a $30 fee which was donated to charity.

Scott Sprague, who works for the State Division of Public Health, was one of the first “inmates ” to stay the night.  While Sprague was entertained for most of the night by tours, interactions with the other inmates/jail personnel, getting handcuffed and finger printed, he said he wouldn’t want to stay for more than 24 hours.

“I don’t know how long I could have taken being incarcerated, and I don’t want to find out,” Sprague said.

Sprague said trying to sleep was the worst part of his night because most of the lights had to be kept on for security reasons.

Corrections Director Mike Thurber confirmed that other inmates had trouble sleeping and that many of them described the mattresses as “firm” and “hard.”

As difficult of time as these “inmates ” had falling asleep, it could’ve been worse.

Each of the inmates had their own cell to themselves. The cells are meant to hold two inmates.

As far as the food, which has a common reputation for being bad, Sprague gave it 2 and half stars out of five.

Overall the jail stays did more than just educate and entertain the citizen inmates, several of whom had never stepped foot into a jail before. The event also raised money for local charities Operation Santa and The Child Advocacy Center.

The biggest reason the event was held though was for the jail’s faculty to test out the new building while facilitating very low-risk inmates.

By the end of the weekend, Thurber said the overnight stays helped the staff learn minor issues that will be altered.

“I think we’re gonna re-arrange some furniture, (there were) some plumbing issues in some of the cells, simple things you don’t really think of,” Thurber said.

The staff was also able to try out new equipment, check camera angles, and time out how long it would take to get from point A to point B in the 288,920 square foot building.

Thurber said the idea to test out the new jail with citizens is not a novel one.

“I opened one back in 1987 and we did it back then,” Thurber said.

Thurber said the faculty asked participants a hand-full of questions at the end of the overnight stay.

“The thing I heard the most was the interest in things we do other than just locking people up,” he said.
Free tours of the jail are being offered until April 19. Sign up for one of the tours at

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