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Miscalculated terms for parole violators bedevil Nebraska prison system
Sentencing errors

Miscalculated terms for parole violators bedevil Nebraska prison system

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Early-release inmate that state couldn't find popped up on Google for Chicago arrest

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At least 500 more Nebraska felons were set to be released from state custody too soon, in addition to hundreds released early due to previously discovered sentence miscalculations, prison officials disclosed Saturday afternoon.

And that may be the tip of the iceberg; an additional 800 sentences will be reviewed in the coming weeks to see if they, too, have to be adjusted.

It’s too soon to say if any additional former prisoners will have to be returned to state custody, prison spokesman James Foster said Saturday. But because the amount of time being added for the latest group is relatively small — a day to six months, so far — chances are slim.

“I don’t want to say that they couldn’t come back, but since we’re dealing with a lesser amount of time, it’s less likely,” Foster said Saturday.

The new type of miscalculation was discovered during a state review of all sentences and release dates conducted in the wake of a scandal disclosed in June by The World-Herald.

The problem came about because of the way good time was awarded to parolees who had parole revoked, and were returned to prison.

Under state guidelines, well-­behaved parolees’ sentences are reduced by 10 days for every month they successfully serve on parole. But parole violators should forfeit the 10 days extra credit, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning concluded after questions were raised by Corrections staff.

That had not been the practice in the Department of Corrections.

In the wake of Bruning’s ruling, though, Corrections officials have adjusted the sentences of about 425 incarcerated inmates and 80 more inmates who were on parole.

The department issued a press release Saturday explaining the discovery after The World-Herald had inquired earlier last week about parole miscalculations.

Two prisoners who had time added as a result of Bruning’s ruling had been placed in Corrections Director Mike Kenney’s Temporary Alternative Placement program in September.

The program, which some lawmakers have said was illegal, allowed prisoners to stay at home, rather than return to prison.

Kenney admitted to a legislative committee this month that he went ahead with the program after three attorneys told him it was illegal.

Bruning has since said he’s not sure whether the program is legal or illegal.

The new type of miscalculation comes on top of 750 miscalculated sentences disclosed earlier. Those sentences all included mandatory minimum terms, which are applied to the worst crimes. Gun criminals, repeat offenders, sex offenders and drug dealers are all unable to earn good time on the mandatory minimum portion of their sentences.

As a result of those recalculations, about 15 felons were returned to prison. Several more had their parole extended or were placed in the re-entry furlough program.

The furlough program is a kind of pre-parole parole that lets prisoners remain officially in prison custody while living outside prison walls.

But Kenney could not get approval from the Parole Board or county attorneys to place a handful of the felons on furlough. These were inmates who had six months or less to serve, under the state’s interpretation of the law.

Rather than seek to round up those prisoners, Kenney created TAP. The program required prisoners to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and report to a parole officer twice a week, he said.

Three prisoners, whose release dates were incorrectly calculated because of mandatory minimum issues, were placed in TAP on July 31 and Aug. 1.

On Sept. 23, Kenney turned to the program again for two prisoners affected by the parole miscalculations. The state considered their sentences complete as of Oct. 5 and Oct. 22.

Kenney has said TAP was a one-time program.

“As of October 22, 2014, there are no inmates remaining on TAP nor will there be in the future,” he wrote in a letter to the Legislature’s prison investigative committee.

Foster could not say Saturday why only two of the hundreds of inmates affected by the new problem were placed in TAP.

Contact the writer: 402-444-3144, matt.wynn@owh.com

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