Chairperson Sen. Lathrop and Judiciary Committee Board Members
District #12, Room 1103 State Capitol
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
January 28, 2022
Dear Senator Lathrop and Judiciary Committee Board Members,
My name is Jasmine L. Harris. I am the Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for RISE. I request that this testimony be included as part of the public hearing record that shows RISE is in support of LB878.
RISE is the largest nonprofit organization in Nebraska focused solely on habilitative programming in prisons and reentry support. At RISE, transformation starts pre-release and continues post-release. Our inside/out model bridges incarceration to the community and considers all the critical steps in that journey. We prepare and train people for each phase through intensive character development, employment readiness, job creation through entrepreneurship, family programming and case management. We transform people in the community by building awareness and empathy that leads to support and opportunity. These connections heal families, create employment pathways and lower recidivism. The mission of RISE is to break generational cycles of incarceration.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Nebraska’s incarceration rate is 577 per 100,000 people (which includes prisons, jails, immigration detention, and youth facilities). This rate is higher than countries like the U.K., Canada, and Italy (139, 114, 96 respectively).1 The average daily jail population statewide is 3,489 people.2 Although that number sounds low, what we don’t take into account is the transient nature of people being booked and released in the local jails. The annual unique jail admissions is about 30,000 with over 70,000 people being released each year.2,3
We continue to ask for alternatives to help alleviate overcrowding, as we see our county jails are dealing with this as well, and the solution must be a proactive approach. At RISE, we believe that alleviation can happen on the front-end by addressing the county jails and the pretrial system. As part
of RISE's policy and advocacy work, we are interested in identifying and addressing gaps and opportunities related to the pretrial justice system in Nebraska. We conducted an assessment of the pretrial system by way of survey in September 2020 asking people about their understanding of how pretrial works in our state. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of respondents disagreed with the statement that no one is detained due to the inability to pay a financial condition for release.
According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System’s Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 report, 35% of adults faced with an unexpected $400 expense would have had difficulty completely covering this expense.4 We have people currently sitting in our Nebraska jails with a $5,000 bond, meaning they need $500 for release and cannot afford it.
This continues to perpetuate cycles of poverty and incarceration. It results in people who do not have disposable income spending days to months in jail that further impacts their livelihood. It takes only 3 days before someone who is jailed and cannot afford cash bail to potentially lose their employment, housing and custody to their children.
LB878 would ensure that individuals who are languishing in jail have a process in place to automatically review their circumstances to identify reasons that they’re not meeting conditions of release. According to a Columbia Law Review article, best practice would be to have these reviews in a shorter period of time, ideally within a maximum of 48 hours.5 Nebraska doesn’t have a process in place currently. Proposing to have a 14 day review is moving us in the right direction.
RISE’s vision is that all people will find freedom from incarceration and this is why we support LB878. We ask that committee members vote this bill out of committee to General File.
Jasmine L. Harris, MPH, CHES
Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, RISE
3 Nebraska Crime Commission, 2017
4 https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2021-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2020-de aling-with-unexpected-expenses.htm
5 https://columbialawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Weldon-MORE_APPEALING_REFORMING _BAIL_REVIEW_IN_STATE_COURTS.pdf