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Archive for Sunday, October 15, 2006

Meth law outpaces prison capacity

October 15, 2006

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— Nebraska would have to nearly double the size of its prison system to accommodate a dramatic increase in inmates caused by the state's new methamphetamine law if nothing is done to find alternatives to prison for many offenders, according to a new study.

The study done for the Department of Correctional Services said the get-tough meth law that took effect last year - combined with normally expected growth in the prison population - could require an additional 4,726 prison beds by 2025.

That's an increase of 90 percent from present capacity.

The new capacity would cost an estimated $328 million to build and add another $84 million in operational costs annually.

The report said that the prison system would have been expected to expand to 2,360 inmates by 2025 without the meth law. The report said that increase alone would call for $194 million in new construction and an additional $72 million a year in operating costs.

"The capital and operational impact is virtually the equivalent of creating a parallel correctional system," the study said.

State lawmakers passed a bill (LB117) in 2005 to crack down on the manufacture of methamphetamine and toughen sentences for those who make, sell and use it.

The report emphasized that the Community Corrections Council is working to develop ways to treat offenders with addictions that could require less time in prison, thereby reducing the need for expanded prison beds.

The meth bill was a favorite of Gov. Dave Heineman.

"This study does not account for Community Corrections and its potential impact on prison populations," said Aaron Sanderford, the governor's spokesman. "The governor has no interest in entertaining the notion of building a new prison, nor will he apologize for a law that puts dangerous meth dealers behind bars."

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