Hot potato

Nebraska prisons are the second most crowded in the country. Right behind Alabama. Ugh! Last year, we housed 5,369 inmates in facilities designed for 3,535.

In 2015, the Legislature enacted a host of sentencing reforms to reduce the prison population. They also passed a law that says, “a correctional system overcrowding emergency exists when the director (Director of Corrections) certifies that the department’s inmate population exceeds 140% of design capacity.”

In the past five years, the director has made no such certification, even though he recently said the inmate population has exceeded 140% since 2009, and state prisons have been under built for at least 40 years.

Solutions to prison overcrowding have resembled the Hot Potato song; Corrections Director pass it on, Legislature pass it on, Governor pass it on, Parole Board…ACLU…prisoners…taxpayers. Today, the inmate population exceeds 150% of the facilities’ design capacity.

Hot potato. The law also says, “the director SHALL declare a correctional system overcrowding emergency on July 1, 2020, if the inmate population exceeds 140% of design capacity. On Wednesday, Director Frakes must certify the overpopulation.

Hot potato. What happens under the emergency? The law says, “During a correctional system overcrowding emergency, the board (Parole Board) shall immediately consider or reconsider committed offenders eligible for parole who have not been released on parole.”

Hot potato. The Governor, Frakes, and the parole board don’t seem concerned and do not believe this will result in the wholesale parole of inmates. To bring the overcrowded population down to 140% would require the release of 500 inmates. Release 1,000 inmates, and that number goes down to 130%. That’s not going to happen.

Hot potato. The statute also says, the board shall continue granting parole to offenders until the director certifies that the population is at operational capacity, which is 125% of design capacity.

Hot potato. Over the past five years, the state spent $170 million on new prison facilities. Director Frakes is now investigating a $200-$300 million-ish, 1,600 bed prison between Omaha and Lincoln. Taxpayers have remained relatively quiet about the cost of incarcerating criminals. Maybe they don’t know the state spends more than $38,000 per inmate each year now.

Hot potato. The much heralded sentencing reforms passed by the Legislative in 2015 have been less than effective at reducing prison populations.

Hot potato. The ACLU and others continue to engage on behalf of inmates’ rights that include overcrowding, lack of adequate medical, mental health, and dental care; overuse of solitary confinement; etc. Don’t discount their efforts or their intensity in a court of law.

BTW, don’t look for solutions on July 21, or anytime soon.



LB187 SUPPORT (Hilkeman)

  • Adds two new definitions to an eligible sports arena facility to the Sports Arena Facility Financing Assistance Act.
  • Any sports complex which includes concession areas, parking facilities and onsite administrative offices connected with operating the sports complex.
  • A multipurpose field meaning a rectangular field of grass or synthetic turf which is primarily used for competitive field sports, that may include soccer, football, flag football, lacrosse or rugby.
  • The bill repeals the occupancy requirement to receive a turn back of sales tax and replaces occupancy with project completion date.

LB1084 (Kolterman) MONITOR

  • The Nebraska Transformational Project Act would provide $300 million in state funding to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for their NExT Project.
  • NExT Project has two components: a state of the art academic medical center facility and a federal all-hazard disaster response military and civilian partnership.
  • UNMC must show an economic impact to Nebraska of at least $2.7 billion during the planning and construction period and at least $4.9 billion over ten years.



  • This is a complex property tax and school funding bill. As amended by AM2433, the bill would reduce property taxes as a major source of funding for K-12 education.
  • Real property would be valued at 95% of actual value for tax year 2020.
  • In tax year 2021, real property would be valued at 91%of actual value.
  • In tax year 2022, and thereafter, real property would be valued at 86% of actual value.