Legislative hearing regarding Nikko Jenkins underway

Posted By: Jenn Schanz

Former Corrections Director Robert Houston sat in the hot seat Friday, testifying before a special legislative committee.

The committee, which has subpoena power, is looking into issues with the Department of Corrections. Specifically, the discharge of Nikko Jenkins.

Senator Steve Lathrop led the hearing, and questioned Houston.

“He’s telling people that he’s going to get out and murder, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Houston. 

According to reports, Jenkins was adamant about wanting treatment for mental illness as opposed to being discharged last summer. Within three weeks of his prison release, he went on a rampage, killing four people.

I spoke to Jenkins on the phone. When he heard about the special committee forming, he was supportive.

“The truth is coming out about everything, how I did not want to be released, how I wanted treatment,” he said in January. 

Published evaluations on Jenkins were conflicting. Some deemed him mentally ill and suggested he be transferred to the Lincoln Regional Center, others said he was faking it.

All said at the very least, he had violent tendencies and a history of behavioral issues.

“He was clearly dangerous with the threats he had made to kill when he got out. How did you not know?” he asked Houston. 

Houston says no one spoke to him about the evaluations.

“My job was to set in motion a transition for this person out into the community,” Houston said. 

He also admitted things look different in hindsight, but said given how many inmates were discharged in 2013, Jenkins case did stand out.

“We had 2,000 inmates released that year. I wrote a memo on one. And that’s Nikko Jenkins. And so there’s no doubt he was on our radar screen.”

The committee is set to share their recommendations with the legislature by Dec. 15th.