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(Neb)-ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Over Prison Conditions

By: John Axtell Posted at: 04/11/2017 06:51 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska wrote Governor Pete Ricketts Monday and warned if unlawful conditions at the state's prisons aren't addressed within 10 days, it plans to file a lawsuit.

     Other organizations signing the letter included the National Association for the Deaf, Nebraska Appleseed and the ACLU National Prison Project.

     As of December, Nebraska's prisons were at 158% of design capacity, with 6 of the major men's facilitlies at 160% capacity, and the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center at 273% of capacity.

      The ACLU and the other organizations urged Ricketts to immediately declare an emergency and allocate emergency funding to the Department of Correctional Services to fill current vacancies and correct constitutional and legal violations.

    Taylor Gage, the governor's chief spokesman, says the ACLU call to release prisoners early in response to violent incidents is "absurd and threatens public safety," adding that the corrections department continues to make steady progress on a justice reinvestment plan from the Council of State Governments.

    The ACLU letter comes on the heels of an incident last Friday at a Lincoln prison that saw 3 corrections officers receive minor injuries and part of a housing unit set on fire.

       Omaha Sen. Bob Krist cited the letter on the floor of the Legislature, saying he was very concerned about the safety of corrections officers and the prison system.

     He also warned that everything the ACLU has been saying about the state prison system in recent years is "coming to fruition" and that the civil rights group promises, not threatens, a lawsuit if changes aren't made quickly.


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