Some fear probation cuts could hurt prison reform efforts

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- When Nebraska lawmakers sought to ease prison crowding two years ago, they expanded probation services in hopes that more supervision and treatment would reduce the number of low-level felons behind bars.

But now, in the wake of this year's budget crisis, some lawmakers fear cuts to probation services could undermine the work they've done so far.

Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete says the cuts are concerning, and she worries that judges will send low-level offenders to prison if they don't believe probation services are adequate to handle the caseloads.

The cuts came as lawmakers and Gov. Pete Ricketts sought to fill a projected $900 million revenue shortfall in the upcoming two-year budget.