Pending release of Nebraska inmates parallels Nikko Jenkins case

The inspector general is concerned with the lack of mental health care within state corrections system.
A new report reveals damning details from those who oversee the state's corrections system.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:03 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A decade ago, Nikko Jenkins murdered four people in Omaha shortly after being released from prison.

Now, a question is raised that is chilling for those who oversee Nebraska Corrections: Is the system creating another Nikko Jenkins?

6 News has interviewed Jenkins a handful of times, and while he speaks of the god Apophis being responsible for the murders — and a number of other wild theories — the courts have repeatedly found him competent and understanding of right from wrong.

Jenkins once told 6 News that the outcomes may have been different if he had received mental health care while locked up.

Convicted spree-killer Nikko Jenkins in court. (Photo courtesy: WOWT)
Convicted spree-killer Nikko Jenkins in court. (Photo courtesy: WOWT) (KKTV)

Nikko Jenkins isn’t going anywhere. He remains on death row locked behind bars in Tecumseh, Nebraska.

But in 2013, Jenkins was begging anyone, from prosecutors to judges, to keep him locked up.

Jenkins said his 10 years of prison time for carjacking as a teenager didn’t address his mental health and that he feared with his pending mandatory release that he would kill more if let out of prison.

And he did.

Four people were shot dead in 10 days at the hands of Nikko Jenkins.

Doug Koebernick is the Inspector General for Nebraska Corrections, essentially the independent oversight for the state’s prison system.

The office was created because of the system’s failure with Jenkins. Lawmakers and the public alike naturally did not want a murderous rampage to happen again.

“The longer you keep people there, you’re going to see worse results from them,” Koebernick said. “You’ve got to figure out what can work for a community.”

In his annual report, Koebernick uncovered some disturbing examples.

One man has been in restrictive housing for years, meaning he doesn’t get out of his cell for more than an hour per day. It’s been that way for five and a half years.

That inmate will “jam out” this December, which is a term used for someone released directly into the community without any oversight.

“I’m not saying these people who are released will be like Nikko Jenkins, but we have an individual in restrictive housing who has been there for 2,000-plus days and another for more than 1,400 who are scheduled to walk away out the front door,” Koebernick said. “It’s a very serious situation and you’re trying to help them succeed and keep the public safe.”

Another individual has been in long-term restrictive custody for nearly four years — most of his sentence. He’s scheduled to be let out in December, also without any oversight.

6 News contacted the Nebraska Department of Corrections to see if they have a plan in place to help with the transition of these two men back into the community.

NDCS did give 6 News this statement:

The individuals referenced in the report both have transition plans in place. In addition, reentry plans will be in place for them. To the extent possible, connections with community reentry providers and others will be made prior to release.

Officials also told 6 News over the last several months, the number of individuals housed in restrictive housing for over six months has dropped by about 35%.

A report from the Nebraska Corrections Inspector General revealed some potentially dangerous possibilities.