New Prison Director Kenney Goes on Record with 1011 News

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Anyone watching the news these days knows full well that prison reform efforts are underway at the Nebraska State Capitol.

Just recently, 10/11 Owen Jensen sat down with Michael Kenney, the new director at the State of Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

Kenney talked about a wide range of topics involving the prison system, including overcrowding, good time, earned time and the possibility of building a new prison to house the growing inmate population.

The department is coming off a very difficult year of bad headlines from the summer of 2013. There were the multiple killings in which Nikko Jenkins, who had just been released from prison, is accused of committing. And there was the fatal crash that claimed the life of a Lincoln woman, blamed by authorities on a prisoner driving a state-owned van.

That inmate van driving program was cancelled. "It's certainly not in my plans to reinstate that program," said Kenney.

"As it stands right now, the prison system is at 153 percent of designed capacity," said Kenney. "We have a crowding issue, we do."

But does that mean a new prison is in the offing?

"I don't know about that. We have a strategic planning process that won't be completed until late spring, early summer."

While Kenney would not discuss the Jenkins case on camera, he did say, regarding the deadly incidents from last summer, "And while they were tragic and while we strive to correct those immediately, I don't think they denote systemic failure."

Kenney also pointed out that Nebraska has a recidivism rate that is among the best in the nation, but also added, "There's always room for improvement."

Despite an ombudsman report that criticized how the prison system handled the Jenkins situation, Kenney believes inmates are getting mental health at every level that the department can provide it and believes it's adequate.