September 20, 2014

Houston questioned about Nikko Jenkins’ case (AUDIO)

Sen. Steve Lathrop (L) questions former Corrections Dir. Bob Houston

Sen. Steve Lathrop (L) questions former Corrections Dir. Bob Houston during legislative hearing

The former state Corrections Director told lawmakers convicted serial killer Nikko Jenkins caught his attention just prior to his release from prison, but that didn’t prevent Jenkins from being released and killing four.

Former state Corrections Director Bob Houston told a special legislative hearing he had devised a plan for Nikko Jenkins’ release.

The committee is studying the state prison system, attempting to devise a plan to ease prison overcrowding without build a new prison. It held a day-long hearing at the Capitol Friday in which is asked Houston about the Department of Correctional Services’ miscalculation of prison sentences. In addition, state Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha grilled Houston on the Nikko Jenkins’ case. Jenkins killed four people in Omaha after being released from prison.

Houston testified that Jenkins first appeared on his radar screen in 2009 when Jenkins assaulted a guard while on leave to attend his grandmother’s funeral.

Jenkins first entered the system in 2003 as a juvenile offender. In 2005, he became an inmate in the adult prison system, eventually transferring from Tecumseh to Lincoln.

Houston outlined the steps he took to plan for Jenkins’ release, assembling a team to consider the best way to handle the mandated release of the troubled inmate in July of 2013.

Lathrop, though, pressed Houston on why he didn’t move for the civil commitment of Jenkins at the Lincoln Regional Center after Jenkins threatened to kill once released from prison at the end of July last year.

AUDIO:  Sen. Steve Lathrop questions former state Corrections Dir. Bob Houston about the Nikko Jenkins’ case. [36 min.]

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

“How come Bob? How come no one considered whether this guy should be committed to the regional center under a civil commitment? He was writing the Douglas County Attorney, trying to get himself committed. How’d that not happen? Tell us,” Lathrop asked.

“I think we need to think back,” Houston answered, clearing his throat. “I think we need to think back to before July of 2013.”

Houston said Corrections couldn’t have foreseen that Jenkins would kill four in Omaha upon release. Yet, lawmakers point to numerous signs that Jenkins had given clear signals of his intent.