Good time changes proposed for county jail inmates

Individuals incarcerated in county jails would start earning credit toward their sentences earlier under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 10.

Sen. Matt Hansen
Sen. Matt Hansen

Currently, when inmates begin serving a state prison sentence, they are eligible to earn day-for-day “good time” credit toward their sentences for following rules and not engaging in prohibited conduct. Inmates serving a sentence in a county jail also can earn this good time, but only after the first 14 days of their sentence.

LB444, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, would amend the good time rate for jail sentences to mirror the state prison good time rate, effectively abolishing the 14-day waiting period.

It is not good policy, Hansen said, to discount an entire two weeks of a jail sentence from being eligible for good time.

“I would argue that the first two weeks are a time when this tool would be most helpful to jail staff,” he said. “At the same time, it would streamline shorter jail sentences to match those at our prisons.”

The bill also would give judges the discretion to apply any unused good time credit earned during a previous incarceration if an individual is arrested on a new charge. Judges already have this authority when imposing state prison sentences.

George Dungan, representing the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, spoke in support of LB444. From a purely logistical perspective, Dungan said, creating harmony between the state and county good time statutes would add some clarity to an already complex process.

“Certainly, we want to be encouraging individuals in custody to maintain that good time,” he said. “If we’re going to be making sure that individuals are cooperative and working inside that jail, I think it makes sense to let them start earning that good time from the very first day that they’re in custody.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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