Lawmakers Hear Pitch for Prison Reform in Nebraska

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Supporters of a Nebraska prison reform effort are arguing that the state needs to expand its supervised release programs and offer more services to help inmates return to society.

Some former inmates, like Willis Sanders, of Omaha, know the struggles a person can face trying to re-acclimate back into every day life. He spent 23 years in prison.

"But, even today, at this point in time, I'm still being hindered and sometimes just turned away because of that conviction.

Sanders has hit little else but road blocks while trying to get his life back on track, even as he works to help others just like him.

Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha said Thursday that the current system forces inmates to "jam out" of prisons with inadequate medication, housing or oversight, and no real prospects for a job. The state's prisons have collectively risen to 153 percent of their design capacity, with nearly 4,900 inmates.

Lawmakers have promised a series of prison reform efforts this year.

A new report by the Platte Institute for Economic Research suggests that the prison population soared with the passage of truth-in-sentencing laws.

Another part of the prison reform bill would create a Re-entry Programming Board that would include judges, prosecutors and the head of corrections.

The board would be tasked with developing standards and performance measures for these mandatory programs, as well as rigorously track those program's successes and failures.