Earned time debate continues in Lincoln

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Updated: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 09:58:11 CST

Are the streets of Nebraska safe?  On Monday the Governor, Attorney General and State Senator Lautenbaugh introduced a bill addressing just that.  

For many state senators, prison reform is a top priority this legislative session.  And with the clock for change ticking, the senate floor is already getting heated.

"Our state is not safe.  Our state is not safe.  Because the policies and the programs in place in the Nebraska Department of Corrections are not adequate," said State Senator Brad Ashford, District 20, on the senate floor Tuesday.

And with changing those policies in mind, on Monday, Governor Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning and Senator Lautenbaugh introduced their plans to move from the Good Time Law to an earned time law.

"Instead of automatically having their sentence reduced by half, possibly losing that if they misbehave or don't follow their program.  This would be, you have your full sentence and you can have your sentence reduced if you comply with your program and behave while you're in prison," said State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh, District 18.

And the Senator is already seeing support.

"About a half dozen have signed on as co-sponsors so I take that as a vote of confidence," added the Senator.

But State Senator Brad Ashford, head of the judiciary committee, says earned time would take an overhaul of the entire sentencing system.

"Judges sentence now based on what the Good Time Law is," said State Senator Ashford.

And Senator Ernie Chambers is already voicing his discontent with the Governor and his proposed plan.  Before the session even began, Senator Chambers made it clear he would block any attempt to change the Good Time Law.

"Me thinkith, me hearith, the lame duck is quacking.  That's all the lame duck is doing.  Quacking, quacking, quacking," said State Senator Ernie Chambers, District 11.

So what should our focus with prison reform be on?

"It should be going on supervised release.  It should be going on alternatives to incarceration," said State Senator Ashford.

And for State Senator Ashford, who is in his final term, changing Nebraska's prison system must happen this session.

"I will stay here until midnight every night.  I will not leave here.  And if it looks like at the end of the session that this isn't getting done, we'll filibuster every bill until it gets done," said State Senator Ashford.