State Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings says officials at the Department of Correctional Services displayed a total disregard for the law in the prison sentence miscalculation scandal.
“And the irony is these are the people that are in charge of keeping people who have broken the law,” Seiler says. “And yet they see no problem with not following a Supreme Court case or setting up willy-nilly some regulation without following the Administration Act.”
Seiler served on both the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee and the Justice Reinvestment Working Group over the interim.
The special investigative committee studied the steps that led to the miscalculation of hundreds of prison inmates’ sentences; 550 of whom were still in prison, but 200 were released prematurely.
Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning pledged to fix the mess created when state Corrections officials failed to follow state Supreme Court rulings. All inmates released early have been returned to prison. Nearly all the sentences have been re-calculated.
Other members of the investigative committee pledge to make prison reform a top issue in the 2015 legislative session.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha says reform will cost, because mental health services need to be restored in state prisons.
“We need to start by correcting the lack of treatment facilities that we have and treatments that we have inside of the Correctional institutions as well as community-based,” according to Krist. “It’s an investment that will turn around the juvenile justice system, the adult justice system, criminal justice system in general.”
Other treatment programs include programs designed to break drug addiction and alcoholism.
Krist is critical of the Heineman Administration’s decision to not fund such services and says the legislature needs to take the lead in addressing the issue.
“I believe that we’ve been cleaning up a lot of the executive branch’s issues over the past few years and will continue to with this issue.”