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LINCOLN, NE: Recommendations regarding necessary improvements in the Department of Correctional Services have been made in a report released today by a bi-partisan committee of the Nebraska Legislature.
The report is the result of work completed in the Legislative interim by the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee, which was established under LR34.
“We believe the recommendations in this report are essential to addressing the chronic and systemic challenges in the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services,” said Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, Chair of the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee. “These challenges continue to create serious barriers to the well-being of correctional officers, the successful rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals, and the public safety of our communities.”
“The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has been without sufficient resources for many years, leading to understaffing, low morale, inadequate programming, and inadequate mental health care,” said Senator Pansing Brooks. “Getting the Department back to where it needs to be will require significant resources in the next legislative session and beyond. Tough decisions need to be made. Our state budget can no longer be balanced on the back of corrections cuts.”
The committee held ten hearings on specific topics including staffing, overcrowding, mental and behavioral health and treatment, programming, and restrictive housing.
“The committee found that significant problems remain in the Department of Correctional Services, including a high number of vacant positions, significant turnover in staffing, overcrowding, lack of appropriate programs to ensure that individuals gain skills and participate in rehabilitative activities so that they can become parole eligible, and much more,” adds Senator Kate Bolz. “Decisive action is needed in both the Executive and Legislative branches to implement these recommendations and stabilize our system as quickly as possible.”
Thirty-three recommendations were made by the committee. Specific recommendations included:
•Budget proposals submitted to the Nebraska Legislature by the Department of Correctional Services should be fully funded.
•The Legislature should convene a group of attorneys to conduct a comprehensive review of the Nebraska Criminal Code in order to address front-end issues related to overcrowding. The group should provide a report to the Judiciary Committee with recommendations for changes by September 15, 2018.
•Promotion of efforts to recruit and retain behavioral health staff members through increased wages, improved working conditions and a student recruitment initiative in partnership with the Behavioral Health Education Network of Nebraska should be quickly implemented.
•Development of an implementation plan to address the recommendations for increased programming as proposed by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, as well as increasing access to cognitive behavioral therapy and gender-specific programming for women must occur.
•Implementation of mission specific housing for individuals with specific needs, such as mental illness, and ensuring that restrictive housing rules and regulations meet American Bar Association standards should be initiated.
The Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee was established in 2014 to examine the circumstances of Nikko Jenkins’ confinement and release. This examination has led to a multi-year oversight and legislative reform effort by the Nebraska Legislature. Committee members included: Senators Seiler, Pansing Brooks, Bolz, Chambers, Coash, Ebke, Krist, Mello, Morfeld, Schumacher, and Williams.
“All over the sky a sacred voice is calling your name.” Listen for that voice as we gather.
We are here to align our collective conscience.
We are here to pray for healing of the on-going devastation and genocide of a people in a sovereign nation on our northern border.
We are here to pray for ourselves.
As we come together today I would ask that we acknowledge and honor the spiritual fact that the people of the Oglala Lakota nation are God’s people, as are we.
They are a gathering of precious souls—many of whom are broken by their particular vulnerability to addiction to alcohol. That vulnerability is one we have known and understood and exploited for centuries–even before the establishment of WC in 1904 when Roosevelt removed the 50 mile Alcohol Buffer Zone.
We, as Nebraskans, are complicit in gathering the taxes yet turning a blind eye to the trauma and annihilation of a people wounded and abandoned beside us. We must pray for forgiveness and for blessings for the beloved people of PineRidge. We must bolster each other’s faith in order to fight for justice and to stand with those who are powerless and oppressed.
My faith stands on 3 simple words: God is Love. For me, the phrase is it’s own simple palindrome because it reads the same forward and backward—God is Love. Love is God. Great spiritual power exudes from the knowledge that God is Love. I believe that if our society were perfected in Love, we would not stand by and watch the isolation, the trauma of the indigenous souls around us. If we were perfected in Love, we would not shrug our shoulders in indifference to the unemployment, poverty, disease, and lives of our brothers and sisters who are plagued by addictions that work to undermine a noble culture. If the faith that God is Love were the compass by which our society and lives were led and governed, we would have solved this issue long ago.
We all need to pray to not become overwhelmed but determined in Love. Determined to bring our gifts and talents, our LOVE, to work to heal an untenable, indefensible situation where people in Nebraska are preying on the particular vulnerabilities rather than praying for the victims.
As Black Elk said: The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.
Finally, Black Elk encouraged us saying, “let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer.”
It is now up to us to walk this earth in prayer and to ACT with Love that is God as our spiritual guide for the sacred souls of the Oglala Lakota people and for our own interconnected souls. I end with the sacred Lakota prayer which I hope you will memorize and repeat in your own meditations:
“Mitakuye Oyasin” (Mi-talk-u-ee O-ya-sin)—“we are all related.” Mitakuye Oyasin.
LINCOLN – Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, Legislative District 28, issued a statement today following the Liquor Control Commissions’ unanimous decision to compel the four liquor stores in Whiteclay to reapply for their liquor licenses.
The decision comes in light of information revealed at the October 11 Hearing on Whiteclay as part of Senators Pansing Brooks’ and Lindstrom’s Interim Study (LR 567) on Whiteclay. At our Interim Hearing, Sheridan County Commissioner Jack Anderson said the County does not have adequate law enforcement to promote public safety and catch potential violations of the Liquor Control Act in Whiteclay.
Senator Pansing Brooks full statement is as follows:
“I want to commend the Liquor Control Commission for its vote today. It is clear to me, through our Interim Study on Whiteclay and through my own communication with other officials, that adequate law enforcement does not exist in that unincorporated area.
As the Transcript from our Interim Hearing shows, Sheridan County Commissioner Jack Anderson said that Sheridan County “absolutely” does not have the adequate resources to provide law enforcement to Whiteclay. On the same day as our Interim Study, a report came out quoting Sheridan County Commissioner James Krotz about the need for funding for public safety in Whiteclay, as well. These comments validate my own understanding from a conversation that I had on my first visit to Whiteclay in May. While there, I talked with Sheriff Terry Robbins for 40 minutes about the adequacy of law enforcement and he indicated he did not have the deputies to send to Whiteclay to adequately monitor liquor violations.
These issues with law enforcement relate to one of the proposals in our multi-faceted plan calling for full-time law enforcement in and around Whiteclay. The reason we have called for added law enforcement is because we believe that law enforcement in Whiteclay is inadequate for public safety. Lack of law enforcement also makes it difficult to uncover and prosecute any and all violations of the Liquor Control Act.
I have been saying since I first became involved with this issue that there is a clearly defined procedure established by the Legislature to evaluate the compliance of all liquor stores, whether in Whiteclay or anywhere else, under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act. That procedure ensures the Due Process rights of all parties. These statutes lay out very clearly the requirement for the adequacy of existing law enforcement in any area that sells alcohol.
I want to thank the Liquor Control Commission for doing their due diligence to ensure that the statutes are met regarding the issuance of liquor licenses. Having the stores go through the long-form process will trigger an evidentiary procedure through which all parties can provide evidence to determine the adequacy of law enforcement in Whiteclay and each liquor store’s compliance. I am grateful and find it appropriate that the Liquor Control Commission voted unanimously to initiate the long-form process regarding alcohol sales in Whiteclay.”
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