Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • Governor answers letter on prison overcrowding with call for focus on death penalty

  • Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman responded to a call for probation funding and proposals to reduce prison overcrowding with a letter asking for a focus on the death penalty and laws to tighten the state's "good time" law linked to early prisoner release."Due to endless debate to end capital punishment, it has become cl...
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  • Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman released a letter Sept. 25 addressing letter from state Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha regarding prison overcrowding.
    The governor asked for the state Legislature to follow his lead to encourage focus on the death penalty.
    "Due to endless debate to end capital punishment, it has become clear to me that murderers in the community are not concerned about the fear of capital punishment," Gov. Heineman said.
    He also urged Mello to support him in the concept that "good time" for prisoners should be earned rather than automatically credited as a prisoner enters the prison system.
    Mello's Sept. 18 letter asked the governor to submit budget recommendations for the specialized substance abuse supervision program and intensive supervised probation.
    He also asked the governor for proposals to revise the state Department of Corrections' rules and regulations to help reduce the prison population so that it goes back below 140 percent of capacity.
    Nebraska's prison system currently stands at 149 percent of capacity, well in excess of the 140 percent overcrowding emergency outlined in state law, Mello said.
    Mello expressed concern that overcrowding will intensify through 2020 and result in federal intervention to reduce overcrowding to 137 percent.
    In cases of federal intervention in other states, Mello said, it resulted in the release of some moderate to high risk offenders.
    He said the state needs "responsible leadership" to manage overcrowded prisons, noting that prospect of federal intervention and the cost to build a new prison at $150 million.
    The governor responded asking for Mello to accept his leadership on death penalty issues.
    "It is my hope that you and other opponents of the death penalty in the Legislature will cease the attempts to repeal the death penalty. Clearly, death is the only just sentence for criminals who repeatedly terrorize the community and a tool we need to safely secure the public," the governor said.
    Heineman said he intends to pursue legislation that will change good time laws.
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