Bill would require correctional demographic data report

Lawmakers would have a clearer understanding of individuals involved in the state’s correctional system under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 11.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist10' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Wendy DeBoer'>Sen. Wendy DeBoer</a>
Sen. Wendy DeBoer

LB499, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, would require the state Department of Correctional Services, Office of Probation Administration and Division of Parole Supervision to report annually to the Legislature regarding the status of each active case under its supervision.

Reported data collection has been sporadic, DeBoer said, and having the ability to compare one year against another will help lawmakers to see trends, especially trends related to race and ethnicity.

“Having easily accessible and consistent data is of utmost importance for us as policy makers when drafting legislation,” she said. “It’s also important for advocates and citizens to have access to this data as they participate in the legislative process.”

The report — due each Nov. 1 — would include information on each individual’s age, race, ethnicity and gender, as well as the individual’s prior county of residence, citizenship status, offense of conviction and the type and length of sentence imposed.

Names, dates of birth and addresses would not be included in the report.

Speaking in support of LB499 was Ryan Spohn, a criminal justice researcher. A more thorough examination of additional data points will improve transparency regarding important government services, he said, and help identify sources of racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system.

“Data is what allows us to evaluate the operations of our criminal justice and correctional systems so that we can hold informed conversations regarding methods for important public safety through effective and cost-effective community corrections and institutional correctional practices,” Spohn said.

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

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