45 Nebraska prisoners released too early because of mix-up
“As much as we want to automate them, there’s always a human component."
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s prisons released 45 inmates earlier than they should have because state officials failed to apply disciplinary sanctions to their sentences that would have kept them behind bars longer, the state corrections department acknowledged Thursday.
The Department of Correctional Services said 187 prisoners should have lost so-called “good time” credit for violations of prison policy, but the sanctions weren’t properly counted on their sentences.
Of that group, 45 have already been released from prison and two of them have since committed low-level misdemeanors when they should have been incarcerated, said Director Scott Frakes. Frakes said one of the two faced charges of minor in possession of alcohol and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, while the other was charged with trespassing.
In an interview, Frakes said state officials won’t try to recapture the inmates who were released early because their infractions are considered violations of the department’s administrative policies, not state law. He said the department has taken immediate steps to ensure that all entries into the state’s prison records system are manually double-checked, and eventually he plans to automate the process.
“As much as we want to automate them, there’s always a human component,” Frakes said, adding that “we’re striving for 100% perfection.”
Nebraska’s corrections department uses a system of “good time” credit to encourage good behavior. For every day served without a violation, inmates get one additional day taken off their official sentence. Prisoners who use drugs, start fights or get into other trouble can lose their credit, and thus have to spend more time behind bars.
Nebraska faced a similar problem in 2014, when the Omaha World-Herald revealed that corrections officials had miscalculated thousands of prison sentences that led to hundreds of inmates getting out of prison earlier than they should have. The debacle led to years of intense scrutiny that eventually uncovered other problems within the department, including persistent overcrowding and staffing shortages.
The amount of time assessed for inmate sanctions ranged from 15 to 180 days, the department said in a news release. Frakes said some of the rule violations not properly recorded happened as far back as 10 years ago. During that time period, prison officials logged more than 15,000 sanctions in their system.