Officials goaded into action on sentencing flap

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Heads have begun to roll now that the prison sentencing scandal has resulted in a criminal investigation, announced today.

Local observers were not surprised when it turned out that higher-ups weren't exactly going out of their way to keep prisoners in an overcrowded correctional system any longer than necessary.

Nearly 600 sentences had to be recalculated after the problem came to light earlier this summer, and while most of the prisoners were still in prison, dozens had to be tracked down after being released early.

The case of Nikko Jensen, who was among those released too early, and went on to commit four brutal murders, focused attention on the issue.

After internal emails were obtained by the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Watchdog website showing that officials knew sentences weren't being calculated correctly, despite two Nebraska Supreme Court rulings, officials were finally goaded into taking action.

Nebraska Department of Correctional Services director Mike Kinney wouldn't release names or say how many employees were being suspended as a result of the revelations.

Besides disciplinary actions, Kinney said other steps would be taken:

* Future court orders will be brought to the director's "personal attention."

* All judges' sentencing orders for each current inmate will be reviewed to make sure the prison's records "match."

* The National Institute of Corrections will conduct an independent review of the Nebraska Corrections Department.

There was a reason Kenney's release was timed as it was.

On Friday a special legislative committee was to hear from former Corrections Director Bob Houston, who was in charge when the sentencing snafu was in full swing.

Speaking in McCook a few years ago, Houston told local authorities, in effect, "send us people you are scared of, not people you are mad at."

Now that the details of his tenure have come out, citizens may have someone else to be mad at.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: