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Gov. Ricketts insists moves will reduce prison overcrowding

January 22, 2019

LINCOLN - Gov. Pete Ricketts expresses confidence his budget proposals will reduce the prison population in Nebraska and avoid the release of any prisoners.

Ricketts proposes spending $49 million to add two high-security housing units with 384 beds at the Lincoln Correctional Center. He says that, plus $6.6 million for staff and inmate programming and $3.9 million to improve technology should ease prison overcrowding and address claims in a lawsuit as well as a deadline established by state law.

“I am confident that we will win the lawsuit, because we are taking the steps to be able to address the issues,” Ricketts tells reporters. “We’re making that good faith effort and that typically (is) what courts are looking for.”

ACLU Nebraska has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming overcrowded conditions have led to inadequate medical and mental health care for inmates, especially disabled inmates.

Ricketts insists though the prison population exceeds 150% of designed capacity, it hasn’t reach crisis levels.

“Well, we also need to remember that is a designed capacity, not an operational capacity,” Ricketts says. “So, there are two things going. It’s what was the design and what is the operation.”

A deadline looms for the administration. State law dictates prison overcrowding be reduced significantly by mid-2020, at least to approximately 140% of capacity. State Corrections Director Scott Frakes raised doubts late last week he would be able to meet that deadline during a meeting with state lawmakers.

The prison population in Nebraska has risen a bit lately, now edging close to 5,500 inmates, well above 150% of designed capacity.

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