Nebraska Chief Justice Mike Heavican told lawmakers alternative sentencing holds promise in reducing the prison population, during his State of the Judiciary address.
Heavican said the 16 so-called problem solving courts, such as drug courts, DUI courts, and young adult courts, provided treatment under supervised probation to a thousand Nebraskans.
“Assuming that half these individuals would have been sentenced to incarceration, the cost savings to taxpayers was a minimum of $15 million,” according to Heavican.
He said a 2012 statewide study of drug courts showed that 95% of those who successfully completed the program were crime-free a year later. The program isn’t offered throughout Nebraska.
The other alternative sentencing program that shows promise is called Specialized Substance Abuse Supervision, known as SASS. It has worked so well, 16 new officers are being added.
“Adding these officers has doubled the capacity of the SSAS program,” Heavican said. “It will cost just under $2-and-a-half million to supervise individuals within SSAS this year, which is a substantial savings when compared to the cost of incarceration.”
Heavican served on the 19-member Justice Reinvestment Working Group, in which members of all three branches of state government reviewed alternative sentencing programs under the supervision of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Heavican says the alternatives not only should be pursued to ease prison overcrowding, but to get at the root of the problems that lead to crime.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
AUDIO: Chief Justice Mike Heavican delivers State of the Judiciary address to Unicameral. [25 min.]