Gov. Dave Heineman today proposed the legislature change the state “good time” law in wake of the early release of a convict now charged with killing four in Omaha.
Heineman said it is unlikely most Nebraskans understand the state “good time” law.
“Under current law, when a violent criminal has been sentenced for his or her crimes, the length of his or her sentence is automatically cut in half the moment they enter a Nebraska corrections facility, because of the current good time law,” Heineman said during a news conference in his Capitol office. “That needs to change and it needs to change during this legislative session.”
Under the proposal, inmates imprisoned for violent crimes will have to earn any reduction of their sentence. The “good time” law has come under harsh criticism after the early release of Nikko Jenkins. Police accuse Jenkins of going on a murder spree upon release from prison.
Heineman said the case of Nikko Jenkins has exposed flaws in the current law, which automatically grants prison inmates for good time served no matter the conduct of the inmate.
“It’s time to eliminate automatic good time credit for the most violent inmates,” according to Heineman. “The public safety of our citizens should be priority number one and that should start with violent criminals being required to earn any reduction in their sentence rather than automatically receiving it.”
Heineman said his proposal would change “good time” into “earned time”.
Attorney General Jon Bruning appeared with the governor during the news conference
Bruning backs a change that would require inmates imprisoned for violent offenses earn any reduction in their sentence.
“This measure holds inmates accountable. It requires them to actively earn any sentence reductions,” Bruning said. “Without automatic sentence reductions, inmates who commit the most violent crimes will have an incentive to participate in rehabilitation and follow the rules while they’re in prison.”
Thirty-one states have a component of earned time reduction of prison sentences.
Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha will carry the legislation during the session.
According to the governor’s office, the proposed legislation would apply to inmates who commit the most violent crimes including murder, manslaughter, first degree assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, escape, assault of an officer, assault by a confined person, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and similar offenses committed after the bill would become law.
Heineman signed new rules and regulations for the Department of Correctional Services on “good time.” The change allows corrections officials to take away twice as much “good time” for misbehavior, including assaults on guards and fellow inmates. The new maximum penalty allows for up to two years, instead of one year, of “good time” loss for inmates.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning discuss proposal to change “good time” law. [5:40]