Governor pursues changes in Good Time Law - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Governor pursues changes in Good Time Law

Posted: Updated: Sep 25, 2013 04:59 PM CDT

Posted By:  Jenn Schanz

Governor Heineman says changing a system that awards kickbacks for even violent offenders, is necessary to protect public safety.

26–year–old Nikko Jenkins is charged with murdering four people in Omaha last month, just weeks after getting an early release from prison.

For lawmakers, the tragedy has shed light on some big issues in the state's prison system.  One being, the "good time" law.

The good time law is meant to offer incentive for prisoners to be on behavior, but in the wake of recent high profile murders, Governor Heineman is asking the state to take a step back.

According to the law, violent and non violent offenders who are eligible for parole, can get it after serving half their minimum term.

The governor thinks that's too easy.

"For violent criminals, while you're in prison, you should have to earn your good time, you shouldn't automatically receive it," Heineman said.

But not everyone at the capitol is on board with changes that could mean keeping more people behind bars.

Senator Heath Mello wrote a letter to the governor, saying he hasn't paid enough attention to prison overcrowding.  Right now it's at 149 percent capacity.

In Heineman's response, he didn't offer up an exact plan to fight overcrowding, but he did talk about two key things he'd like support on next session - making sure inmates who are a threat to public safety do not get out early... And ending opposition to the death penalty.  Something Mello is against.

"When someone murders four innocent Nebraskans, the appropriate and just penalty is the death penalty," Heineman said.

Heineman says public safety can also be addressed in the legal process.

"Another part of this had to do with the judge sentences. And the judges need to be tougher on crime so that's a component of it, too."

Ultimately the governor says we should be tough on criminals, not soft on crime.

As far as these issues go, like revising the good time law, we'll see more specifics in legislation come January.

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