The number of people incarcerated in Nebraska prisons increased 20 percent from FY2003 to FY2013, from 4,070 to 4,878 people. During this same time period, state spending on corrections increased 34 percent, from $117 million to $157 million. As of May 2014, Nebraska’s prisons are operating at 158 percent of capacity and the prison population is projected to grow an additional 12 percent by FY2023.
In an effort to avert this prison growth, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Chief Justice Michael Heavican, and Speaker of the Unicameral Legislature Greg Adams joined together with the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) in June to launch a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system using a data-driven “justice reinvestment” approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies that can reduce recidivism and improve public safety.
“We are looking for innovative and sensible solutions to our prison challenges,” said Gov. Heineman. “I’m pleased that we are beginning the work of this important project. I am hopeful that we can develop cost effective policies that will create a responsible, long-term prison strategy and increase public safety.”
The Justice Reinvestment Working Group also held its first meeting in June, reviewing a presentation on Nebraska’s criminal justice system trends and the project’s scope of work. The working group, which includes 19 representatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, as well as key criminal justice stakeholders, is co-chaired by the leaders of three branches of government.
The Justice Reinvestment Working Group will meet throughout the year and guide the CSG Justice Center’s analysis of state and local criminal justice system data. CSG Justice Center staff also will work extensively with criminal justice system stakeholders to connect the data analyses with their front-line experiences. Based on these quantitative and qualitative analyses, the Working Group will work with the CSG Justice Center to develop policy options for the Nebraska legislature’s consideration by 2015 that are designed to both increase public safety and contain corrections spending.
Over the past several years, the CSG Justice Center has helped 20 other states across the country—including Idaho, West Virginia, Kansas, and Texas—apply the justice reinvestment approach. The initiative is made possible by a partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
To learn more about Nebraska’s justice reinvestment project, please click here.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2013-ZB-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
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