Proposal averts more than $300 million in corrections spending, eases prison crowding and improves public safety
LINCOLN, Neb.—The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on Wednesday released its final report on justice reinvestment in Nebraska.
Under a policy framework contained in the the report, more individuals would be supervised after completing prison sentences, the needs of crime victims would be addressed through expanded restitution collection, and crime-reduction strategies would be implemented to tackle the revolving door to state prisons.
Returning State Sens. Les Seiler, Heath Mello and Bob Krist, who served on the state’s working group, arranged a briefing at the Capitol where all 49 state senators were invited to review the group’s findings and policy framework.
“This report provides an outline for how the state could improve our corrections system and address the need to reduce prison overcrowding,” said Sen. Seiler, who represents the 33rd Legislative District (Hastings). “The Legislature must immediately address developing legislation this session based on the findings of this report and others before the Legislature and the input of all stakeholders across the criminal justice system.”
“This plan includes innovative strategies that will strengthen supervision in the community, address victims’ needs and hold people convicted of crimes accountable for their actions,” said Sen. Krist, who represents the 10th Legislative District (Omaha). “After undergoing a comprehensive criminal justice system analysis, we cannot kick the can down the road and expect the corrections system to improve without making substantial policy changes that will keep our communities safe.”
“While spending on corrections in Nebraska continues to grow substantially, it is not yielding the intended results,” said Sen. Mello, who represents the 5th Legislative District (Omaha). “The policy recommendations are tough, smart, and fiscally sustainable. With the help from our colleagues in the Legislature, we can move forward and put these proposals into law.”
The working group’s policy framework is projected to slow the growth of Nebraska’s prison population while averting $306.4 million in corrections spending over the next five years. The framework also increases accountability for those who commit crimes, protects victim rights, strengthens the reentry process for people returning to the community from prison and, most importantly, makes communities safer.
As part of the justice reinvestment approach, a portion of the savings would be invested in more training for parole officers, expanding the probation workforce, increasing community-based programs and treatment, a sentencing information database, and evaluations of corrections programming.
Nebraska prisons house more than one-and-a-half times as many men and women as they were designed for. It would cost the state an estimated $261.6 million to add enough space to bring the system down to 128 percent of its design capacity by fiscal year 2019, according to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. But just building more prison capacity will not halt the growing prison population, which is projected to swell from 5,221 people as of December 31, 2014 to 5,581 people by fiscal year 2020.
In addition to the returning senators, the 19-member working group included district court judges, county and defense attorneys and other public safety stakeholders. The working group, which was co-chaired in 2014 by Gov. Dave Heineman, Chief Justice Michael Heavican and Speaker Greg Adams, was established under Legislative Bill 907, which was passed last spring. The group convened its first meeting in June 2014, spent months reviewing data analyzed by the CSG Justice Center and, in December 2014, forwarded a package of 15 policy recommendations for the Legislature’s consideration.
In developing policy recommendations, the working group used the justice reinvestment approach, a data-driven process to avert growth in the prison system and reinvest savings in strategies that increase public safety. Nebraska received technical assistance from the CSG Justice Center in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.
About the CSG Justice Center
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state and federal levels from all branches of government. The CSG Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. These efforts, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, have provided similar data-driven analyses and policy options to state leaders in 18 other states to date.
Link to CSG Justice Center Report
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2015
For More Information:
Senator Mello, (402) 471-2710
Justice Center Contact: Juliet Fletcher – 646.753.5209