Gov. Dave Heineman says he is disappointed a prison reform measure working its way through the legislature does not contain changes to the state good time law.
And, the governor defends his administration’s change of heart on the law.
The Unicameral has given overwhelming first-round approval to LB 907, a $14.5 million measure that supporters contend can reduce the state prison population while improving public safety. It must clear two more rounds before it is sent to the governor.
Heineman tells reporters he’s disappointed by what the bill doesn’t contain.
“I still wish they would address the good time law,” Heineman says. “The people of Omaha have told Sen. Ashford repeatedly, criminals ought to have to earn their good time, rather than automatically getting it.”
A proposal to scrap the state law that automatically gives inmates credit for good time served and replace it with earned time did not make it into the prison reform bill.
Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, Judiciary Committee chairman and sponsor of LB 907, stated this week good time provisions didn’t fit with his assigned task: reducing Nebraska’s prison population. Ashford said the issue could be addressed in the future when the legislature considers sentencing reform measures.
Nebraska houses about 4,600 prisoners, well above the designed capacity of 3,175 inmates.
Just a few years ago, the Heineman Administration moved to relax good time provisions to ease overcrowding.
The move by Corrections Director Bob Houston in 2011 made sense at the time, according to Heineman.
“But I think it’s fair to say things have changed, particularly regarding what happened with the Nikko Jenkins situation and we’re all looking at these issues in greater detail in trying to determine how we ought to proceed in the future,” according to Heineman.
Former prison inmate Nikko Jenkins is accused of killing four in Omaha after being released from prison.
Heineman says the murders in Omaha led to the change.
“We need to be dynamic in how we look at a variety of issues and this is one of them and you need to be flexible over time, OK?” Heineman explains. “And you can’t lock yourself into one strategy forever if circumstances and issues change and they have here.”