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Dangerous criminals should be prison priority
Gov. Dave Heineman is probably right when he says that many Nebraskans don't understand the state's "good time" laws.
"They believe that when a judge sentences someone to 20 years that means the person would serve 20 years, not 10 years, which is the reality under current law," he said in a joint release with Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. "It's time to change the 'good time' to 'earned time' law."
They've persuaded State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha to introduce a bill to replace the current "good time" law, under which inmates automatically have their sentences reduced by half.
Their "earned time" proposal would require inmates convicted of the most violent crimes to actually earn a reduction in their sentence -- that would include inmates to commit crimes like murder, manslaughter, first-degree assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, escape, assault of an officer, assault by a confined person, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and similar offenses committed after the bill would become law.
The idea raises the concern that keeping prisoners behind bars longer will exacerbate Nebraska's prison crowding situation, but releasing violent prisoners back into society, where they are likely to do more harm before landing back in prison, is a false economy.
The crowded prison problem has seen McCook's Work Ethic Camp slowly become just another wing of the state prison system, a male-only facility home to more and more potential parolees and fewer and fewer of the probationers for which it was originally designed.
Nebraska's penal system should be reserved more for dangerous criminals, and less for nonviolent offenders who should be dealt with in a more effective manner.