Sen. McKinney proposes overhaul of Nebraska Parole Board

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A new proposal aims to give rehabilitated inmates a better chance of returning home.

Legislative Bill 631 would change the makeup of the Nebraska Parole Board.

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on it on Thursday afternoon.

This comes after the Flatwater Free Press found that all five members appeared at less than half of the hearings scheduled between May 2018 and December 2021.

It said that out of more than 6,500 cases during that period, only about 37% were voted on by the full board.

The report said that some members disqualified themselves due to connections with an inmate, but most missed votes happened when they didn’t show up at all.

The Flatwater Free Press found that when four or fewer members attended hearings, they motioned to grant parole just 56% of the time.

When the full board was present, that number jumped up to 63%.

Unfortunately, the parole board is not meeting regularly,” said Spike Eickholt with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska. “When they do meet to review a request of people who are applying for parole, they’re often not all there.”

Sen. Terrell McKinney’s bill would add someone who was previously incarcerated to the board.

The board would also include someone with experience in restorative justice and reentry.

That member won’t be just anybody, said supporter Jason Witmer, a former inmate.

It’s going to be people that they’ve come out, they have been invested in the community, the community has also invested on them,” he said. 

Nebraska’s reworked board would also not be able to make any decisions without every member present, and no one could miss more than three meetings each year.

Opponents of the bill say members of the board do not have the same benefits as state employees. They say they have to take off time to go to medical appointments and to do personal things.  

“We are not employees of the State of Nebraska,” board member Bob Twiss said. “We get pay through the executive branch. So, we are treated just like judges; we have no vacation time.” 

Twiss said board members make around $85,000 a year.

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