Nebraska invests millions of dollars annually in rehabilitative programming in prisons. To better understand if these programs are effective, CSG Justice Center staff conducted an in-depth assessment of institutional programs to identify how corrections can modify its investments to maximize recidivism reduction.
In 2014, Nebraska’s prisons were operating at 159 percent of capacity and were expected to reach 170 percent of capacity by 2020. While Nebraska’s resident population and prison admissions were growing, total numbers of reported crime and arrests declined from 2004 to 2013. Further, many people left prison without supervision.
From 2014 to 2015, CSG Justice Center experts analyzed data, interviewed stakeholders from across the state’s criminal justice system, and worked with Nebraska leaders to develop data-driven policy options designed to reduce prison overcrowding, avert spending on corrections, and increase public safety. As a result of this process, state policymakers enacted justice reinvestment legislation (LB 605) in May 2015. Among other provisions, the law
- Requires the use of probation rather than incarceration for most people convicted of nonviolent, low-level offenses;
- Ensures post-release supervision for most people upon release from prison
- Supports victims through improved restitution collection; and
- Strengthens parole supervision to reduce recidivism.
If successfully implemented, the law will help the state avoid up to $302 million in construction and operating costs that would otherwise be needed to accommodate the forecasted prison population growth by FY2020. To achieve these outcomes, the state reinvested $3.2 million for FY2016 and $12.1 million for FY2017 for additional probation officers, community-based programs and treatment, improvements to parole supervision, quality assurance measures, and financial assistance to county jails. The state expects to see a reduction in recidivism and bring the prison population down to about 139 percent of capacity over the next 5 years.
The CSG Justice Center provided technical assistance to Nebraska on the implementation of its justice reinvestment policies. In particular, CSG Justice Center staff conducted an in-depth assessment of the state’s rehabilitative programming in prisons to better understand their effectiveness. In addition, CSG Justice Center staff assisted the state by
- Encouraging the use of swift, certain, and proportionate responses to violations of probation supervision;
- Ensuring the use of swift, certain, and proportionate responses to violations of parole supervision;
- Strengthening and streamlining parole release decision making;
- Improving data collection and cross-reporting across state agencies and stakeholders; and
- Streamlining reentry for people leaving prison through improved interagency collaboration.
Faced with a prison system at 159 percent of capacity and expected to grow to 170 percent of capacity by FY2020, state leaders in Nebraska pursued justice reinvestment. After extensive analyses identified key challenges in the state’s criminal justice system, policymakers developed a policy framework designed to reduce prison overcrowding and expand the use of probation and parole supervision.
This report summarizes comprehensive analyses of sentencing, corrections, probation, and parole data presented to Nebraska’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group.