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Nebraska Has More Prisoners Than It Knows What To Do With

Nebraska’s prisons are bursting at the seams, and the state’s legislature is struggling to fix the problem.

Legislators held hearings on a series of bills Wednesday to address Nebraska’s overcrowded prison population.

One bill, LB172, would limit mandatory minimum sentences for a litany of mid-level felonies such as distribution of cocaine or heroine, Omaha.com reports. LB 173 would limit the “three strikes and you’re out” rule to violent crimes.

These bills are just a few of the measures reformers are advocating as part of a larger move in Nebraska to reform the criminal justice system, fueled in part by recent reports that show the action is badly needed.

Nebraska’s prisons are at 155 percent capacity with some prisons much higher according to a March 2014 ACLU report. The report points to the Nebraska State Penitentiary at 183 percent capacity and the Omaha Correctional Center at 190 percent capacity, suggesting that Nebraska’s prisons may be unconstitutional.

ACLU Nebraska is looking into possible litigation for violation of the Eight Amendment. The group says that the noise, poor ventilation and inadequate opportunity to exercise are just a few of the reasons a lawsuit against the state could be successful.

The report also pointed to poor mental and physical healthcare. The group says it has received hundreds of letters complaining about the overcrowded prisons.

The report points to similar litigation that was successful in California, where prisons were at roughly 200 percent capacity.

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