Nebraska committee urges for prison overcrowding preparation

December 19, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Legislature’s special oversight committee on Nebraska’s justice system has recommended that the state begin to plan for a prison overcrowding emergency that could lead to paroling a large number of inmates.

The Nebraska prison population will be considered overcrowded if it exceeds 140 percent of capacity on or after July 1, 2020, though the governor is authorized to declare an overcrowding emergency before that date.

The average daily population of the state’s prisons exceeded 155 percent as of Oct. 20, according to the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee. Prisons designed to hold about 3,400 inmates held an average of about 5,300 inmates this year.

State law requires the parole board to consider all parole-eligible inmates for release in an overcrowding emergency. The board would have to decrease the prison population to 125 percent of capacity, which would mean the release of more than 1,000 inmates under the current prison count.

Inmates who are a significant risk, appear to be unlikely to follow parole conditions, or whose release would have a significant effect on institutional discipline wouldn’t be considered.

“We want to kind of nudge the Parole Board along; it’s important for us to be thinking about it,” said Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, the committee chairwoman.

Knowing the board’s plan could help the state rethink its approach to the prison population in 2019, she said.

“Maybe we look at whether we should be moving people into county jails before we reach the emergency,” Ebke said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in August that asked the court to intervene in Nebraska’s prison system to reduce overcrowding and address other issues. The lawsuit claims that overcrowding has caused subpar medical and mental health care.

Update hourly