Bruning: Move Corrections' Lawyers To Attorney General's Office

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

Attorney General Jon Bruning thinks Nebraska's next governor should remove attorneys from the Department of Correctional Services and place them in his office.

Bruning said Friday that the corrections lawyers showed they were "utterly incompetent" after they testified at a legislative hearing investigating why hundreds of prisoner sentences were miscalculated. Bruning leaves office in January.

Two attorneys, George Green and Sharon Lindgren, retired last month under the threat of being fired. Green told lawmakers Thursday that he never read a Supreme Court opinion that specified the legally correct way to calculate an inmate's release date. Because the ruling wasn't followed, hundreds of inmates were released before they should have been.

A former records manager who approved hundreds of incorrect prison sentences told lawmakers Thursday she felt pressure from superiors to reduce Nebraska's prison population.

Jeannene Douglass said she was never told to ignore a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that required prisoners to spend more time behind bars. A legislative committee is investigating why the sentences were miscalculated.

Douglass, who retired 15 months ago, said she received no guidance from administrators at the Department of Correctional Services, so she continued to calculate them under a formula used for years.

Her boss, Kyle Poppert, said Douglass was adamant that the Supreme Court made a false assumption about the way the department calculates sentences. Poppert said department attorneys later told them they didn't believe the ruling applied to the agency.

Former assistant attorney general Linda Willard told the legislative committee she notified state prison officials about the 2013 Supreme Court decision that spelled out the proper way to calculate sentences.

Willard said she sent the ruling to Douglass, who questioned whether the ruling was in the inmates' best interest and whether it was practical to deviate from the way prison officials had previously calculated them.

Willard believed Douglass was under pressure from her superiors to keep the state prison population from growing too large. She said she assumed prison officials would handle the situation.

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