Federal, state and local law enforcement are working on arresting between 20 and 25 people mistakenly released early from Nebraska prisons.
News of the effort to arrest the former prisoners comes nearly two weeks after the Omaha World-Herald reported that the state miscalculated the sentences of hundreds of inmates and let them go early.
In a news conference Friday, Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning said 306 inmates were released because of the error.
Most of them will get credit for obeying the law while they were out. They’ll be given credit as if they had served their time, and will not be reimprisoned.
Some are close enough to the real end of their sentence that they will be left free but placed under supervision.
But that still leaves 20-25 that state wants to re-imprison. Bruning said they are mostly people habitual criminals or people with drug problems.
“This is not as a whole an extremely scary group. There’s a few, to be sure, that are pretty darn scary. But generally speaking these folks that we’ve recalculated, they were going to get out anyway,” Bruning said.
Bruning said officials are trying to protect public safety while at the same time not endangering law enforcement. “We want to protect our law enforcement and we’re not going to send them into a situation where somebody’s barricaded themselves with a bunch of guns, and we’re not going to send our officers into a place where they can get hurt,” he said.
In addition to the 306 who were released early, Heineman and Bruning said another 567 current inmates have had their sentences recalculated, and will be released later than previously anticipated. Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha said that will worsen overcrowding in Nebraska’s prisons, currently at 158 percent of capacity. “Right now I have no confidence – none – that the prison system can operate at 158 percent of capacity,” he said.
Ashford said he has a meeting scheduled for July 9 with Corrections Director Michael Kenney, who Ashford says has some ideas on reducing overcrowding. Heineman said the problem of early releases is unrelated. “This was not done because of overcrowding. Corrections made a big mistake. We’re trying to correct that,” he said.
The governor said no one at the Department of Correctional Services, which reports to him through its director, had yet lost a job or been disciplined. He said that accountability would come later, after the situation with the released prisoners is resolved.