State Corrections Director Mike Kenney defends his controversial program to allow prison inmates released prematurely to serve out the rest of their sentences at home.
Kenney objects to state senators on a special legislative committee calling his temporary alternative placement program illegal, insisting it was the best alternative for a handful of inmates who had been living peacefully in their communities.
“I thought this was the best thing I could do as director is to not bring them back and disrupt that,” Kenney tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “So, I looked at that statute and I believe to this day I have authority to do this.”
Kenney has written a letter to the committee, outlining the steps that led him to create the program. It covered five of the 20 former inmates who had been mistakenly released early from prison and had six months of their sentences left. The five had from 12 to 64 days left on their sentences.
Kenney writes he believes state statutes provided the latitude he needed to create the program, which required the five to wear electronic monitoring equipment and report twice weekly to parole officers.
Sen. Steve Lathrop, chairman of the committee investigating the prison sentence miscalculations, contends Kenney acted illegally in creating the program.
Kenney says, in wake of accusation, he should have sought legal advice before going ahead with the program.
“Had I known at the time that I would be called a lawbreaker and it would have come to this, I certainly would have deferred to the Attorney General, asked for a specific opinion from him about the legality of doing it and so I certainly regret not doing that.”
Kenney disputes hand written notes by a former attorney at the Department of Correctional Services, George Green, that listed Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning among those attending a meeting in which he created the alternative placement program. Kenney says Heineman and Bruning attended a meeting called to discuss how to handle about 40 prisoners who had been mistakenly released early.
“I did not announce, in fact I didn’t even have the idea for this temporary release program for several weeks after that,” Kenney says. “So, no, the Governor and Attorney General had no idea that I was developing this specific, temporary alternative placement plan.”