It makes only minor changes in an effort to reduce a prison population now at 150% of designed capacity.
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln reminds colleagues if not reduced to 140% by July 2020, a state of emergency must be declared, and prisoners released.
“If we do nothing about that overcrowding issue and then wait again until next year in 2019, think how close that is to the state of emergency,” Pansing Brooks warns colleagues during legislative floor debate.
Pansing Brooks acknowledges past legislation, specifically LB 605 approved in 2015, has not had the desired effect, barely reducing prison population.
Judiciary Committee Chair, Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, says both the legislative and executive branches are responsible.
“I think this corrections issue is one that is serious,” Ebke says. “It’s one that the legislature ought to be dealing with on a regular basis, that we ought to keep stirring the pot if you will to make sure that progress is made.”
LB 841 has advanced on a 37-1 vote, though both Ebke and Pansing Brooks say it has been watered down.
The package, LB 841, had combined nine bills, but five were stripped at the request of Gov. Ricketts’ office.
The legislation requires the Department of Correctional Services and the Board of Parole to submit a plan to the Unicameral by the first of December on how the agencies plan to proceed if a state of emergency is declared. The Office of Parole Administration will become the Division of Parole Supervision. Corrections officials will have until 2020 to broaden their analysis of the need for security staff to other personnel needs, including medical.
The Nebraska prison population stands at 5,343 inmates, well over the designed capacity of 3,435 inmates.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]