The governor begs to differ.
ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad says the state board approved the active investigation of a possible lawsuit against the state in 2014.
“And in that ensuing three years we’ve seen multiple deadly riots break out, we’ve seen escapes happen that threaten the public safety of all Nebraskans and we see a continual array of frontline staff assaults,” Conrad tells reporters during a Capitol news conference.
Two inmates at the state prison in Tecumseh were killed by fellow inmates during a melee in early March. On Mother’s Day in 2015, two inmates died during riots at Tecumseh, also at the hands of fellow inmates.
The ACLU had threatened lawsuits in the past, but chose to wait and see whether the state would address the crowded conditions in the state prisons. The lawsuit claims the Nebraska prison system stands at 159% of designed capacity; with 5,228 inmates incarcerated in a system designed to house 3,275.
The lawsuit seeks class action certification on behalf of all current and future inmates in Nebraska prisons. The ACLU states the state prison system has been under staffed and over capacity for more than 20 years.
Gov. Pete Ricketts points out the state has poured millions of dollars into improving the state prison system and legislation has been passed to ease prison crowding.
“And this lawsuit by the ACLU, by requesting that we release dangerous prisoners, endangers the public safety and with some of their other requests could endanger our corrections officers by limiting the tools they use to manage inmates,” says Ricketts, responding to a reporter’s question during a news conference in Omaha on another subject.
Ricketts says he has yet to read the lawsuit to fully digest its contents.
Click here for the ACLU link to the lawsuit.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]