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Changes Needed in Nebraska's "Good Time" Law


Location: Unknown

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

Recently, Attorney General Jon Bruning, Omaha State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh and I announced our support requiring inmates convicted of the most violent crimes in our state to earn a reduction in a prison sentence rather than receive it automatically. The law would change Nebraska's "good time" law to a system of "earned time."

Public safety is a top priority. Recent events have led to discussions about the sentencing of our most violent inmates, including current practices and laws regarding sentencing and the length of time an inmate is in Nebraska's correctional system.

Many Nebraskans are unaware of the automatic sentence reductions. They believe that when a court sentences someone to 20 years that means the person would serve 20 years, not 10 years, which is the reality under current law. The citizens of Nebraska are demanding and expecting action to end the policy of violent criminals automatically receiving "good time."

Under current law, when a violent criminal has been sentenced for his or her crimes, the length of his or her sentence is automatically cut in half the moment they enter a Nebraska corrections facility because of the current "good time" law. That needs to change, and it needs to change during this legislative session.

Last month, I approved a change to our good time rules and regulations that allows the Department of Correctional Services to take twice as much "good time" away when a prisoner assaults a corrections guard or another inmate or engages in other inappropriate behavior. That's all that I can do administratively, and now it's up to the Nebraska Legislature to reform the "good time" law.

We need to eliminate automatic "good time" credit for the most violent inmates. The public safety of our citizens should be priority number one and that should start with violent criminals being required to earn any reduction in their sentence, rather than automatically receiving it.

Attorney General Bruning and I have worked together over the last few months to study this issue. Senator Lautenbaugh introduced Legislative Bill 832 which will eliminate automatic sentence reductions for the most violent offenders. Instead of "good time" we are offering the idea of "earned time."

Senators Charlie Janssen of Fremont, Tyson Larson of O'Neill, Beau McCoy of Omaha, John Murante of Gretna and Ken Schilz of Ogallala are co-sponsoring this legislation.

The legislative proposal for earned time requires inmates convicted of the most violent crimes in our state to earn a reduction in a sentence as opposed to the current law where a sentence is automatically halved when the inmate is sentenced.
The proposed legislation would only apply to inmates who commit the most violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, first degree assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, and other serious and violent offenses committed after the effective date of the bill.

Under the proposal, "earned time" is calculated on a month-to-month basis with certain requirements that could allow an inmate to effectively halve their sentence with earn time if the inmate behaves appropriately and is actively following their personalized program plan.

It is time for the Judiciary Committee to reform Nebraska's "good time" law to "earned time."

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