The recommendations include increased use of probation and drug courts for non-violent offenders as well as additional use of supervision for inmates released from prison.
State Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings says supervision of released inmates will reduce the chance of them returning to prison.
“They need time to adjust,” Seiler tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “They got released, but they’re still under the control of the supervision of the Parole Board.”
State lawmakers received help in examining its corrections system from the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The center estimates that Nebraska could reduce its prison population by 10% by implementing the measures in the study. Reform could reduce prison operational costs by $45 million over five years, according to the study, as well as avoid spending $261 million to add prison beds.
Seiler sat on the Justice Reinvestment Working Group along with Sens. Health Mello and Bob Krist of Omaha. The group was co-chaired by the heads of the three branches of government: Gov. Dave Heineman, Legislative Speaker Greg Adams of York, and State Chief Justice Michael Heavican.
Seiler says the proposal to require supervision for inmates upon release holds great promise to keep them from returning to prison.
“Get a job and learn a trade,” Seiler says. “The discipline comes from being under the threat of the supervised release.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts and the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Nebraska prison population is approximately 150% of designed capacity. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services estimates it would cost $262 million to build enough beds to bring the prison population down to 128% of design capacity by 2019.
The state prison population is projected to grow from the current 5,039 inmates to 5,581 by Fiscal Year 2020. The study group hopes to slow the growth, which could save the state $306.4 million in corrections spending over the next five years.
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.