LINCOLN — State prison inmates would have the opportunity to earn more “good time” and win an earlier release under a bill given first-round approval in the Nebraska Legislature on Tuesday.
Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, sponsor of the measure, said that by granting more good time and reducing prison populations, the state could save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
The state, facing an estimated $986 million gap between expected tax revenue and projected spending, has considered a variety of ways to ease prison overcrowding and reduce spending. Legislative Bill 191 is part of that effort.
State Corrections Director Bob Houston testified in support of the bill. He has headed an effort to speed the parole of non-violent, short-term inmates to cut incarceration costs.
Right now, state prison inmates who exhibit good behavior and comply with programs such as education classes and drug treatment can earn one day of good time for every day spent behind bars
Under LB 191, an inmate who has served one year could earn three additional days of good time each month by avoiding disciplinary sanctions.
Inmates on parole could get up to 10 days off their sentences under the proposal. Currently, only two days of good time can be earned while on parole.
Good time under LB 191 would not be subject to forfeit or withholding, unlike the old good time rules.
The Legislative Fiscal Office estimated that about 360 inmates per year would qualify for the additional good time, reducing “inmate days” in prison by more than 7,000. That would result in savings of approximately $108,000 annually, based on the state’s cost for food and clothing of $15 per inmate day.
Council, however, told fellow senators that the savings would be much greater.
The Department of Corrections recently estimated per-day costs at the penitentiary at about $95, which includes the cost of corrections officers, Council said. That would put the savings realized by LB 191 at more than $660,000 per year.
Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha was among those speaking in support of LB 191 during about 15 minutes of debate. He said the bill saves money without sacrificing public safety.
Two rounds of debate remain for the bill, which was advanced on a 31-0 vote.
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