Gov. Dave Heineman insists Nebraska doesn’t need a new prison and rejects suggestions the prison scandal has tainted his legacy.
Heineman sticks with his insistence that no new prison is needed.
“I believe at this stage, based on all the information that I know, Nebraska does not need to build a new prison,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.
A special committee, called the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, has been studying the state prison system. Guided by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the group included the heads of the three branches of government: Gov. Heineman,
Legislative Speaker Greg Adams of York, and State Chief Justice Michael Heavican. Several state senators also served on the working group.
The working group has made a number of suggestions, including alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, such as community service rather than prison. It also suggests supervised released for the first six months after an inmate is freed from prison would greatly cut down on the chance they return. A greater reliance on mental health and job training programs could also help keep prisoners from returning once released.
The study revealed that Omaha judges seem more inclined to sentence some non-violent offenders to prison that other judges in the state. Also, Heineman suggests those sentenced to six months or less should serve their time in county jails rather than state prisons.
“I’m still of the opinion if we dealt with those issues, prison population would go down, you wouldn’t need to build a new prison, which would be $250 million or more, and that will take away from investments in education,” according to Heineman.
Heineman dismisses any suggestions that the prison sentence miscalculation scandal, first unearthed through an investigative report by the Omaha World-Herald, will harm his reputation. Heineman says mistakes happen in an organization as large as state government and his duty as governor is to address mistakes and seek to solve them, which he says he has done.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]