Criminal statutes updated, parole oversight advanced

Lawmakers advanced a bill from general file March 23 that would update the state’s criminal statutes.

The Legislature passed LB605 in 2015 to slow Nebraska’s prison population growth, ease prison overcrowding, contain corrections spending and reinvest a portion of savings in strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

LB1094, introduced by the Judiciary Committee, would clarify many of the provisions in LB605 with updated language. Committee chairperson Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings said the committee knew the implementation of the bill would require updated language in the future.

“We knew we’d get input from a number of people who would provide us with feedback [on LB605],” he said. “[LB1094] is not intended to make any substantive shift in the polices adopted under LB605 but it will assist with its implementation.”

A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 35-0, made additional technical changes primarily to parole administration.

Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz introduced an amendment that would add provisions of her LB910 into the bill. It was debated on select file March 22 but stalled after a failed cloture motion due to a controversial amendment that was adopted on general file.

Her amendment would require the parole administration office to provide access for public counsel and the Office of the Inspector General to all computerized records, reports and documents maintained by the office in connection with the administration of parole. Release of medical or mental health records would be subject to a parolee’s consent.

The amendment also would require the department director to annually submit a report detailing the race, gender and age of all inmates held in restrictive housing as well as the length of time spent in such housing. The report must include the number of inmates diagnosed with mental illness or behavior disorders held in restrictive housing.

Following the 35-0 adoption of the Bolz amendment, senators advanced the bill to select file on a 34-0 vote.

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