A new report by the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) explores the urgent challenges facing Nebraska’s corrections system—along with a path forward.
Over the last decade, Nebraska increased its prison population by 21%, outpacing state population growth nearly threefold. Nebraska faces the most acute prison overcrowding in the country, with six of the ten prisons exceeding 120% capacity as of early 2021. As a result, Nebraska’s corrections spending has increased over 51% since 2011, to over a quarter-billion dollars, and taxpayers are on the hook for an additional quarter-billion dollars to build a new prison absent major reforms.
Read the full report here:
Seeking to address this surging growth in the state’s prison population, a bipartisan group of state leaders launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) process in 2021. At the request of former Governor Pete Ricketts, Chief Justice Mike Heavican, and Senator Steve Lathrop, the Nebraska Criminal Justice Reinvestment Working Group brought together criminal justice leaders from across the state for six months of rigorous analysis and discussion. CJI, with funding from the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts, assisted state leaders in analyzing corrections data, assessing decision-making throughout the justice system, and developing recommendations for policy and practice changes.
In January 2022, the working group released a final report laying out key findings on the state’s justice system, along with policy options to address challenges. The policy recommendations were translated into a comprehensive legislative reform package, LB 920, which would have mitigated most but not all of Nebraska’s projected prison population growth through 2030. The bill stalled during the 2022 legislative session, but the working group’s identification of crucial challenges and evidence-based solutions lays a foundation for future justice reform efforts.
Nebraska leaders have a critical opportunity to bring the working group’s hard work and reasoned recommendations to the next level and address the crisis in its criminal justice system by advancing these important changes as outlined in CJI’s new report.