Chairperson Sen. Lathrop and Judiciary Committee Board Members
District #12, Room 1103 State Capitol
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
February 2, 2022
Dear Senator Lathrop and Judiciary Committee 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 LB880.
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.
LB880 addresses a concern that many people don’t know is a problem unless they or a loved one are incarcerated. In addressing the prices of products sold in commissaries in the correctional facilities across the state, Senator McKinney is ensuring that incarcerated individuals aren’t subjected to unaffordable items. “Jobs” within the Department of Corrections are paid out in a range from $1.21/day to $4.72/day depending on the type of “job” and skill level it requires. For a month, that ranges from $36.30 to $141.60. Out of these funds, people are expected to pay any legal obligations, Victim’s Compensation Funds, required state and federal taxes, correctional services and so forth. As you can see, this depletes funds pretty quickly.
If a person has had a balance of $10 or more on their account for the past 30 days (whether through their “jobs” or family depositing money to their account) they are expected to pay for their basic hygiene items, over the counter health products and anything else they may need. So, a person can spend $1.25 for a bar of soap, $3.25 for a tube of toothpaste, $2.00 for deodorant, and $4.00 for lotion and have already accumulated $10.50 for basic hygiene supplies. You may be saying, these prices sound normal; it’s only $10.50. Yes, if you go into the store and buy them individually, these prices do sound close to normal. If you are buying in bulk, there is a cost savings in buying larger quantities and this should be passed on to the individuals who are buying them. Yes, it is only $10.50, but if you make $1.21/day and are paying legal obligations and so forth, that amount may not be left over in the account.
Capping the amount that products can be marked up may not sound like a life changing moment, but for people that are incarcerated it can be a big difference. Money that is left over in someone’s account can be used to send money home to buy a child a gift on their birthday, support household bills, or put into their savings account so they will have more than the $100 gate fee that they leave with on the day of their release. These things that we consider small steps matter and help provide a sense of hope for people incarcerated because it shows that people care.
RISE supports LB880 and asks that committee members vote this bill out of committee to General File.
Jasmine L. Harris, MPH, CHES
Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, RISE