Study points out need for more effective jail time

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lock 'em up and throw away the key.

For some offenders, that certainly is the proper response.

But judging from a new study by the Pew Center on the States, the situation has gotten out of hand.

In Nebraska, for instance, for every dollar we spend on prisons, we've spent 19 cents on probation and parole.

One in every 44 Nebraskans is under correctional control, more than 30,000, and of that, more than 19,700 are on probation or parole.

But while two-thirds of them are out of prison, most of the correctional budget -- $179 million last year -- goes toward prisoners. It costs about $29,000 a year to keep a inmate in prison, but parolees and probationers costs range from $1,250 to $2,750 a year.

That rate of one in 44 adults in the correctional system in 2007 is nearly double the rate for 1982, one in 87 adults. Nationwide, the U.S. corrections system exceeds 7.3 million, or one in every 31 U.S. adults, according to the Pew Center.

Nebraska's prison population has actually declined to 137 percent of capacity from 140 percent a couple of years ago. That's despite the new, $73 million prison that was built in Tecumseh seven years ago.

It's popular for elected officials to run on a "tough on crime" platform, sending more people to prison for drug and alcohol offenses, for instance. But the new report shows just how costly those policies are.

Recent efforts to pinpoint the reasons for drug abuse, and put more offenders in treatment or to McCook's Work Ethic Camp or community-based corrections programs are moving the state in a more economic and reasonable direction.

Too often, hard time in a prison solidifies antisocial behavior and makes it less likely an offender will permanently kick substance abuse habits.

Community-based corrections programs require participants to show steady improvement in behavior that is more likely to serve them well once they are released.

Combined with electronic monitoring and other new technology, such programs offer a more efficient, effective solution.

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  • This is a complete load of horse $%*#!!! I worked for the department of corrections in Nebraska for several years. Nebraska has so many people on probation and parole because it is way too difficult to get sent to prison in this state. And once you get there, the prisons in Nebraska resemble a college campus. These inmates are not required to work or participate in programs, most of the wardens will not force the inmates to do anything becuase they are afraid they will have to defend a lawsuit. All you have to do is look at an inmate wrong, and they are writting letters to the ombudsman, or Ernie Chambers. The inmates are allowed to work, or not work. They can sleep until noon, get up and go to the gym, walk the yard or gamble at one of the tables on the yard, then play hand ball on the court all evening. Later they get to watch free cable TV and lounge around the day room all evening befor bed. And even if a correctional officer writes up an inmate, chances are nothing will come of it. All of the programs that are utilized in the community based program are available in the prison system, the only difference is that nobody will force the inmates into the programs. I think the prisons sentences in Nebraska need to be much, much harsher. And I think they need to run the prisons like a real prison because at this time in Nebraska, there is no such thing as hard time.

    -- Posted by seentoomuch on Tue, Mar 3, 2009, at 5:07 PM
  • wow, seentomuch...I can appreciate your opinion. Let's take a look at things from another view. Is it possible the whole prison thing is out of control. A person used to have to be a bad guy to get sent to prison. Now it's loved ones, neighbor, and friends. What they send a person to prison now for, they used to tell us just to go home and sleep it off. Lighten up on the laws. There are so many more rules now. People have common sense. They don't need a law for every little thing. If it's not hurting anyone, but possibly yourself, who cares! Let people be. We used to be allowed to have a goodtime once in awhile. Not anymore. Don't be so quick to judge others. It'll bite you back someday. Lets say you could oneday accidently run some one over on a cross walk....

    -- Posted by hussco on Tue, Jul 7, 2009, at 12:31 AM
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