Democrat Chuck Hassebrook releases prison plan

Democrat Chuck Hassebrook releases prison plan

July 09, 2014 -- Nebraska Radio Network

Democrat Chuck Hassebrook vows to change how Nebraska administers good time provisions in prison if elected governor.

Hassebrook has outlined a plan on prisons.

Hassebrook says, as governor, he would prevent prisoners who abuse the rules or attack guards from automatically receiving credit for good time served.

“One of the things that seems to be lost in much of the discussion about good time with the governor trying to blame the legislature is the simple fact that, right now, under the existing statutes the governor has the authority to implement regulations to take away every day of automatically granted good time from inmates who repeatedly break prison rules, who attack prison guards or other prisoners like Nikko Jenkins did,” Hassebrook tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Jenkins is accused of killing four Omaha residents after being released from prison early. The murders prompted considerable discussion about the state “good time” law. Under the law, inmates who enter prison are automatically granted credit for good time served, which in effect cuts their sentence in half.

Gov. Dave Heineman called on the Unicameral to end the practice of automatic good time credit. Legislators didn’t act on the proposal.

Nebraska prisons now hold far more inmates than their designed capacity. At present, more than 5,000 inmates are incarcerated in Nebraska, nearly 160% of the state prison capacity. State legislators, worried about a potential lawsuit, and wishing to avoid building a new prison, created a 19-member Justice Reinvestment Working Group, with members from all three branches of state government to work with the Council of State Governments Justice Center to review alternatives to prison.

Hassebrook says he would review the findings of the working group, but says the state needs to invest more in diversion programs so it can spend less on incarceration.

“We have to make much greater use for non-violent criminals of things like drug courts, mental health courts for people who end up in prison because they have mental illness problems that aren’t violent, but they keep doing dumb things,” Hassebrook says. “We need to expand young adult courts and veteran courts for people who come back from war with problems and end up in prison.”

Hassebrook says he hasn’t calculated the cost of setting up such alternative programs, but believes they would save Nebraska money.

“We do know this, that there is an upfront cost, but that over the long term, they save a lot of money.”

Hassebrook also wants to see more money spent on education.

“Nebraska spends a lot of money on things like public assistance and prisons. They’re spending money dealing with the symptoms of kids getting off to a bad start in life, because they haven’t gotten what they need at home from parents and family,” according to Hassebrook. “I think we need to look at how we can invest our funds earlier to head off some of those problems.”

Hassebrook also advocates more job training programs to keep youth from getting involved in the activities that lead to crime.

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