By: Bill Schammert
Some lawmakers want to turn Nebraska's Good Time law into an Earned Time law. It seems like a logical idea on paper, but it has senators divided.
As it stands now, the minute an inmate steps behind bars, their prison sentence is cut in half. Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh wants to change that rule for violent offenders.
"Instead of the good time being automatically given, it would be earned through good behavior and following a specific program."
Inmates could still earn credit by not participating in programs, as long as they were on a waiting list, or showing some sign that they wanted to participate.
The bill has received support from Gov. Dave Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning and the family of Andrea Kruger - a 33-year-old mom allegedly killed by Nikko Jenkins last August.
"[People like that] should not be in society," Chuck Freyermuth, Kruger's uncle, testified. "They're not going to adhere to regulations, they're predators. It's a small population, but it's a population you have to deal with it."
The Judiciary Committee hearing lasted for several hours as senators questioned how much good changing the Good Time law would do.
"Either your taking it away, or you're giving it to them," Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial said. "I'm a pretty simple guy, but I don't understand how one way is better than the other."
Sen. Ernie Chambers echoed those sentiments.
"An earthworm looks the same on both sides, even to the earthworm, and this is an earthworm," he said.
Other senators on the committee seemed angry that the Department of Corrections was endorsing the bill, yet they didn't ask for more money from appropriations to enhance rehabilitation programs.
"This is an illusion unless it's accompanied by more programming, and it's not," Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha said.
In December, Gov. Heineman signed into law a fairly significant change to the Good Time law. Correction officers can now double the amount of time taken away for misbehaving, assaulting officers or other prisoners - with a maximum of up to two years.