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Breaking Down Nebraska LB 920

Nebraska LB 920

The Problem 

Over the last decade, the population of Nebraska prisons increased 21%, differing from the national trend of a decreasing imprisonment rate. Further, there has been a 38% increase in the amount of time people spend in prison, and a decrease in parole grants.

This comes at a great financial cost to Nebraska taxpayers, with a Nebraska Department of Corrections budget of more than $270 million for 2020, an increase of 50% since 2011. In addition, our leaders are currently debating a new prison costing $240 million.

Despite the amount of financial resources that has been given to the criminal justice system, recidivism rates were 30% in 2018. Meaning, about 1 in 3 people that were released in 2018 ended up back in prison. Nebraska also leads the nation for prison overcrowding and is facing detrimental staffing shortages.

Criminal Justice Reinvestment Work Group 

In order to explore these issues and create solutions, leaders in Nebraska partnered with the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) and created the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Work Group. The goal of this partnership was to examine criminal justice agencies in Nebraska to make data driven recommendations to improve conditions and maintain public safety.

Through this partnership, CJI was able to make 21 policy recommendations to improve the criminal justice system in Nebraska. These recommendations are present in LB 920, which was the 2022 Judiciary committee’s priority bill.

LB 920: 

Focuses on reducing recidivism and reducing the number of individuals that are incarcerated in prison, while maintaining public safety. The bill focuses on the following: 

  • Reforms probation and parole  
  • Creates more appropriate sentencing and addresses significant regional differences across the state
  • Reduces barriers to reentry 
  • Prioritizes expanding behavioral and mental health services  
  • Increases the use of diversion programs 

Other states 

In 2007, Texas faced a similar dilemma as Nebraska does today, build a new prison or embark on a Justice Reinvestment Initiative? They chose the latter, focusing on investing in community-based treatment and diversion programs and reforming parole and probation. The result of these policy changes saved the state money, reduced the number of individuals that were incarcerated, and maintained public safety.

Oklahoma also chose to create a Justice Reinvestment Initiative by improving access to mental health and substance use treatment, reforming their sentence structure, and improving their community corrections policy. Oklahoma was able to reduce the cost spent on corrections and reduce the number of individuals that were incarcerated, while still maintaining public safety. 

Explore RISE's 2022 Priority Issues and Policy Agenda here.

References 

  • Courtney , L., & Harvell , S. (2020, July 27). JUSTICE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE (JRI) Oklahoma. Urban Institute . Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/2020/07/27/justice_reinvestment_initiative_oklahoma.pdf
  • Fabelo, T. (2010). Texas Justice Reinvestment: Be more like Texas? Texas Justice Reinvestment: Be More Like Texas? | Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/texas-justice-reinvestment-be-more-texas
  • LB920 Introducer's statement of intent chairperson ... (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/107/PDF/SI/LB920.pdf 
  • Nebraska Criminal Justice Reinvestment Working Group. (2022). Justice Reinvest Initiative . 
  • Ten Years of Criminal Justice Reform in Texas. Right On Crime. (2017, August 1). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://rightoncrime.com/ten-years-of-criminal-justice-reform-in-texas/
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