Officials Begin Effort to Overhaul Prison System


Gov. Dave Heineman was joined by Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams and Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican on Wednesday to announce plans for a formal review of the state's criminal justice system.

The study will examine alternatives to incarceration, such as probation and drug courts in an effort to reduce prison crowding and bring down costs, while still keeping the public safe.

Lawmakers this year established a 19-member Justice Reinvestment Work Group to look for solutions to problems within the system and examine what other states have done recently to reduce their prison populations.

“Together, we are committed to maintaining public safety for all Nebraskans,” said Adams, co-chair of the working group. “The policy solutions that we hope will come out of this project will require actions from all three branches of government in order to make improvements across the system. State policymakers from across the country, including Texas, Kansas, and South Dakota, have used this approach to contain correction costs while reinvesting a portion of the savings to help make communities safer.”

As of May 31, there were 5,175 people being housed in the state's prisons, 158 percent of capacity. And, the prison population is projected to grow 12 percent by 2023, according to a recent forecast.

The working group's recommendations are expected to be delivered by the end of the year.