Prison reform has moved into a position to pass this legislative session as lawmakers seek ways to ease prison overcrowding without building a new prison.
First-round approval has been given to LB 907, a $14.5 million prison reform measure.
Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, is sure the measures contained in the bill will help the state avoid building a new prison.
“We have sufficient space now. We don’t need to build a new prison. A new prison does not need to be built; period,” Ashford tells reporters after the Unicameral took action.
Under provisions in the bill, more non-violent offenders will be shifted into programs, not prison. Inmates will receive treatment in prison to help overcome drug and alcohol addictions. Mental health services will be available to the third of Nebraska prisoners suffering from mental illness. Education and vocational training will be given to prisoners edging toward release, so they can find employment after prison.
Prisoners will be supervised upon release.
Ashford says only 63% of Nebraska prisoners receive supervision upon release now. That will increase, Ashford says.
“This bill’s important, I think, because it gets us there,” Ashford says. “It gets us on the way to getting that 63% number up to 80%, 90%.”
Nebraska also will work the Council of State Governments on further steps to reduce a prison population 40% over the designed capacity of the state’s prisons.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]