Nebraska Prison Crowding Prompts Push for Reform

Post Date: February 2, 2014

(AP) – Prison overcrowding is prompting lawmakers to take a new look at supervised release programs in Nebraska, along with reforms to the system that awards “good time” credit to reduce prison sentences.

Lawmakers will begin that work this week with a proposed overhaul measure of the state’s overcrowded prisons, which have risen to 153 percent of their design capacity with nearly 4,900 inmates. Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who is leading a state prison-reform effort, said Nebraska needs to expand community programs for inmates to help them return to society.

Ashford has introduced a bill, set for a hearing Thursday, that seeks to reduce recidivism and overcrowding in the state prisons. The bill would encourage more supervised release and expand the use of electronic ankle monitoring. Inmates who are segregated for misbehavior would not earn “good time” credit while isolated, but would start earning it again once they’re returned to the general population.

“We have to provide community-corrections options for judges throughout the state,” Ashford said. “That has to happen this year.”

Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Michael Kenney said community supervision is a “viable option” to reduce overcrowding, but he also wants to see a state consultant’s recommendation for a long-term plan. The report is due for release in May.

“I am a big believer in community supervision as an alternative to incarceration,” Kenney said. “I think it’s a viable option. But within the agency, we don’t really control that very much. The only thing we control within (the department) is releasing an inmate on his discharge date.” Read more