A threat has been followed through as a federal lawsuit is filed against the state prison system.
“Early this morning, the ACLU of Nebraska, along with our esteemed and distinguished co-council, filed litigation in federal court challenging the horrific conditions of confinement that plague our state prison system,” Executive Director Danielle Conrad of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska told reporters during a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda.
Conrad claimed overcrowding at state prisons has reached a point in which it violates the constitutional rights of inmates.
The lawsuit asks the courts to direct Nebraska to ease overcrowded conditions in the state prisons and to address what it claims is a lack of adequate medical and mental health treatment.
“We do not undertake this action lightly. It is brought with great deliberation and foresight,” according to Conrad, “But Nebraska state prisons are in a state of chaos that endangers the health, safety, and lives of prisoners and frontline staff alike.”
The lawsuit claims the Nebraska prison system stands at 159% of designed capacity; with 5,228 inmates incarcerated in a system designed to house 3,275.
The lawsuit seeks class action certification on behalf of all current and future inmates in Nebraska prisons. The ACLU states the state prison system has been under staffed and over capacity for more than 20 years.
ACLU National Prison Project Director David Fathi said the situation in Nebraska prisons is not normal.
“Multiple, major riots with multiple deaths are not normal. The extreme crowding in Nebraska prisons is not normal,” Fathi said. “Nebraska is the fourth most crowded state prison system in the entire United States. Two of the other three, Alabama and Illinois, have already been sued over the dangerous and deadly effects of overcrowding.”
Two inmates at the state prison in Tecumseh were killed by fellow inmates during a melee in early March. On Mother’s Day in 2015, two inmates died during riots at Tecumseh, also at the hands of fellow inmates.
AUDIO: ACLU of Nebraska holds a news conference to announce federal lawsuit claiming prison overcrowding. [19 min.]