Governor Dave Heineman said Wednesday he will pursue changes to Nebraska's system of awarding "good time" to prisoners in the wake of high-profile murders allegedly committed by an inmate who was released despite a history of disciplinary problems.
Heineman made the announcement in an open letter to Senator Heath Mello, of Omaha, who has criticized the Department of Correctional Services under Heineman's watch for not proposing any changes and failing to address prison overcrowding.
The "good time" law gives prisoners a day of credit for every day they spend behind bars. A Heineman spokeswoman says the governor believes good time should be earned, not given automatically.
The announcement came in the wake of four Omaha murders allegedly committed by Nikko Jenkins shortly after he was released from prison in July.
The announcement also renewed sparring with State Senator Health Mello over prison policy.
Mello issued a statement Wednesday saying, "...I am deeply concerned about the Governor's continued refusal to lead on the most pressing issue facing the Department – prison overcrowding.”
That comment was preceded by a September 18th letter to Heineman. Mello stressed the need for responsible leadership to manage the state's overcrowding crisis while prioritizing public safety, and urged the Governor to propose a comprehensive plan to reduce the prison population back below 140% of capacity.
In Wednesday's statement from the governor, Heineman proposed a “renewed focus on the death penalty” and legislation to change Nebraska's “good time” law.
Mello countered by saying, “I find it disappointing that the Governor chose to respond by making a personal political attack, rather than offer real solutions to a prison overcrowding crisis that is estimated to grow to 188% of capacity. Even if all eleven prisoners currently on death row were executed today, prison overcrowding would be reduced by just 0.34%.”