In 2015 a prison in Nebraska was taken over by its inmates for several hours. Two were killed before staff regained control. The riot was worsened by the fact that the state’s prisons were horrifically overcrowded. “Nobody was surprised it happened,” says Jason Witmer, who was serving a 17-year sentence for robbery and home invasion at the time. “Trying to contain things, they got more restrictive, then the restrictions became new norms.”
That year, the Nebraska legislature unanimously passed a sentencing-reform bill that was designed, among other things, to ease that overcrowding. It was forecast to get the prison population down to around 4,500 people, or 139% of capacity, by 2019. Four years later, however, things are worse. Nebraska’s prison system today holds more people than it ever has. Seven of its ten prisons are stuffed to more than 150% of their designed capacity. Its most crowded holds more than three times as many inmates as it should. If the situation does not improve by July 1st 2020 the governor will have to declare an emergency. That would impel officials to consider immediate parole for all eligible inmates.
BY: The Economist
PUBLISHED: Detroit Free Press