Nonviolent inmates could be released earlier
November 8th, 2010
Lincoln, NE -Â Nonviolent inmates will get out of prison earlier, under a plan being implementedÂ by the Department of Correctional Services.Â Three factors are driving the plan, according toÂ Corrections Director Bob Houston.Â Â First, a desire to maintain or improve public safety; second a need to keep prison overcrowding under control; andÂ third, aÂ need to save money in tight budget times.Â Houston explains the essence of the plan this way:
“We think that we can have people considered for parole, or make recommendations to the parole board sooner in a personâ€™s incarceration [keeping] in mind that what they were doing in the institution can be done through a re-entry program that weâ€™ve established and strengthened over the lastÂ five orÂ six years.”
HoustonÂ said heâ€™s not talking about changing the time when inmates are eligible for parole â€“ thatâ€™s set by the courts. But he said doing things like evaluating inmates for substance abuse and parole risk can be done sooner, so when they become eligible for parole, prisoners can be moved out of prison more quickly.Â Each inmate released saves the state on average $5,650 a year, Houston added. So the initial goal of reducing the prison population by 260 would save about $1.4 million, plus another $765,000 by cutting 15 to 17 prison staff positions. But Houston said that isnâ€™t the only consideration.
“First of all,” he said, “we think itâ€™s the right thing to do, whether thereâ€™s budget cuts or not. The second thing is, we know we need to lower our prison population. We just canâ€™t let it go up.”
The population of the stateâ€™s prisons is already averaging 140% of capacity. If that number gets too much higher, the courts could step in and order the prison population reduced.
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