Bill to reform parole board amended, advanced

A measure that would provide seats on the Board of Parole to individuals with experience in the state’s correctional system was expanded and advanced to the second round of debate April 3.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB631, as introduced last session by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, would require the board to include one member who is a formerly incarcerated individual and one member with experience in restorative justice and reentry. In addition, members would be considered to be in “neglect of duty” if they miss three hearings of the parole board in a calendar year and parole could not be denied based on an inmate’s lack of access to programming.

A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 33-8, would make a number of changes, including requiring a code of ethics and training in cultural competency and implicit bias for board members.

An amendment offered by McKinney replaced the committee amendment and added the provisions of five additional bills related to reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals. Among other provisions, the amendment would require development of performance metrics for probation officers and evaluation of a possible unified risk assessment framework across all Nebraska criminal justice agencies.

McKinney said many people are languishing in prison long past their parole eligibility date due to barriers to reentry. He said the amendment is an attempt at a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s parole and pardon systems.

“We need to make sure that we’re actually rehabilitating people,” he said. “I strongly believe that we must make changes to our parole board and our criminal justice system.”

Included in the amendment are provisions of LB1145, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Carolyn Bosn, which would transfer the Division of Parole Supervision to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

She said the change would provide greater coordination of reentry programming.

“The goal here is to have the right hand talking to the left hand and having a smooth transition so that individuals who are coming out of the Department of Correctional Services are set up for a path of success,” Bosn said.

Also included is LB334, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, which would create minimum standards for reentry housing facilities throughout Nebraska.

McDonnell said wrap-around services are important for people who are reentering society after being incarcerated and housing is big part of that equation. He said some existing reentry housing — which the state pays for — is “not fit for humans.”

Other bills in the amendment are:
• LB348, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, which would give parole services the power to contract with nonprofit private providers to develop and operate community work release and treatment centers;
• LB922, sponsored by McKinney, which would establish the Parolee Business Empowerment Grant Program to provide financial grants to eligible parolees who own or run businesses; and
• LB1126, introduced by Bosn, which would create a career readiness pilot program to assist justice-involved individuals in obtaining the National Career Readiness Certificate.

Bellevue Sen. Rick Holdcroft opposed the McKinney amendment. While acknowledging the hard work involved between lawmakers, the governor’s office and the department, he said the 52-page amendment was too expansive.

Both McKinney and Bosn said additional amendments would be offered on the next round of debate, as negotiations among stakeholders regarding additional modifications are ongoing.

Following the 29-7 adoption of the McKinney amendment, senators voted 30-7 to advance LB631 to select file.

Bookmark and Share