ACLU Agrees To Drop Lawsuit Against Nebraska’s Prison System
By Associated Press
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A civil liberties group is dropping its lawsuit accusing the Nebraska prison system of fostering inhumane conditions, but it says it will continue to fight against overcrowding and perpetual understaffing of the state’s lockups.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and attorneys for the state this week filed a joint motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit. The move came after a judge in June denied the ACLU’s request to certify the lawsuit as a class action.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of 11 prisoners against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, its director, Scott Frakes, and various prison system officials. Class-action status would have extended the suit to include more than 5,000 inmates in the prison system.
The lawsuit alleged that the state’s prison system violated inmates’ constitutional rights through the excessive use of solitary confinement and through gross negligence of their medical and mental health issues. It also took issue with the system’s persistent inmate overcrowding and “dangerous” understaffing.
David Fathi, the ACLU’s lead attorney on the case and director of the group’s national prison project, said Tuesday that the court agreed there were serious issues in Nebraska’s prison system, but that its order denying class action certification forced a change in strategy.
“The work doesn’t end here,” Fathi said. “It takes a new direction. Until Nebraska gets serious about reducing overcrowding, problems will continue to plague the prison system.”
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts called the dismissal a win for taxpayers.
“It is a defeat for anti-public safety interests who have been seeking a mass release of inmates for years,” Ricketts said.