LB831 would allow specific inmates to qualify for conditional release

This bill create a diversion program for incarcerated pregnant or postpartum mothers who are the main caregivers for their children.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A new bill, LB831 would create a diversion program and look at conditional release for incarcerated pregnant or postpartum mothers who are the main caregivers for children.

Nature Villegas was the only woman in the room that had given birth inside a prison, she was also the only person to speak from a neutral standpoint.

“11 years ago I was known to the state of Nebraska as inmate 97313. I went to York penitentiary. I found out I was pregnant in jail. It was a very excruciating experience. I’m neutral because I love the bill. The issue I have is maybe more of a case-by-case approach,” said Villegas.

Villegas says that because she was protecting herself in a domestic violence situation, on paper she was a violent offender, which would exclude her from a program like this.

“It is intensive to get involved and to go to programming, to get right for our kids and figure out the way and the more that we have these resources, that’s preventative,” said Villegas.

Those who support this bill want to keep families together, especially during the first year of a baby’s life.

“Alleviate overcrowding in our facilities because we see that jails are feeders into them so we have to begin on that front end as well. It allows parents to continue to be providers for their children and decrease the risk of familial cycles of incarceration,” said Jasmine Harris, Director of Advocacy & Policy at RISE.

The Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Scott Frakes, opposes the bill and spoke about a nursery program already in place in Nebraska.

“I don’t have the resources, components, structure, staff, or anything else to supervise this in the community,” said Frakes.

The bill would leave the discretion up to specific counties for what offenses would be excluded from the diversion program.

Andrea Frasier, a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving was there to make sure one offense would be added.

“MADD urges an amendment to LB831 to ensure that any DUI charge would disqualify an individual from being eligible for diversion,” said Frasier.

Individuals are encouraged to write to state senators to share their thoughts on the new bill before it makes it to debate.

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