Expanded prison, parole evaluations discussed

A bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Jan. 27 would require an independent contractor or academic institution to evaluate Nebraska’s prison and parole programs.

Sen. Steve Lathrop
Sen. Steve Lathrop

LB896, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, chairperson of the committee, would require the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and the Division of Parole Supervision to use an independent contractor or academic institution to evaluate programs funded by the department. 

Lathrop said LB896 is intended to clarify ongoing concerns regarding inmate access to programming while in prison and under supervision upon release.

“LB896 will assist … in providing quality, evidence-based programs to incarcerated and parole supervised individuals and help ensure that our tax dollars are going to effective programming that improves public safety and achieves the goal that it is intended to achieve,” Lathrop said. 

Under the bill, nonclinical treatment and structured programs would be evaluated on a regular basis and clinical treatment programs would be evaluated every three years. When applicable, evaluations would include a cost-benefit analysis, ratings of effectiveness in reducing recidivism rates and the availability and timeliness of programs. 

Evaluation results would be sent to the inspector general of corrections and the evaluated entities.

Doug Koebernick, Inspector General of the Nebraska Correctional System, testified in support of LB896. Koebernick said he was encouraged by the departments’ acknowledgement that more can be done in regard to programming.

“I think that this bill is a very important piece of the discussion taking place about our justice system, because it can lead to better outcomes … such as better programming,” Koebernick said. 

No one testified in opposition to LB896 and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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