Nebraska Earns “F” in New Nationwide Study of Pretrial Justice Systems

Affiliate: ACLU of Nebraska
November 1, 2017 2:30 pm

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LINCOLN, Neb – Today the Pretrial Justice Institute released a nationwide report which looks at pretrial justice systems across the United States. This phase of the criminal justice system includes “initial contact with law enforcement to the resolution of charges through a plea, trial or dismissal.” Nebraska is among one-third of states to receive a failing grade. The only state to earn an ‘A’ was New Jersey which eliminated money bail in the beginning of 2017. Nebraska’s rate of pretrial detention–holding people behind bars without being convicted of a crime–is among the lowest in the country at 13.1 individuals per 10,000 residents. Louisiana has the highest rate at 29.9 per 10,000 residents.

Following a 2016 investigation by the ACLU of Nebraska which looked at both modern day debtors’ prison practices and the bail system in county courts, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB259. According to the ACLU and other advocates, this legislation which goes into full effect in 2019, should curb the trend of poor people ending up in jail because they cannot pay a fine.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad had the following reaction:

“No Nebraskan should be jailed in modern day debtors’ prisons facing a dizzying maze of fines and fees simply because they are poor. The ACLU’s investigation last year clearly illuminated that this is happening in Nebraska and hurting far too many individuals and families–especially communities of color. Just a few days in jail can be devastating to an individual’s job, health, family and education.

“Debtors’ prisons come with a steep price tag for taxpayers and have little to no benefit for our shared public safety goals. While we are pleased lawmakers came together across the political spectrum to reform these practices, prosecutors and judges need to implement proven reforms with all deliberate speed. Every day they wait violates Nebraskans constitutional rights and risks liability for costly civil rights litigation. We will continue our court watching programs over the next few months. Justice shouldn’t depend on the size of your bank account and we are preparing new tools to empower individuals to advocate for themselves in court.”

Douglas County Commissioner Chris Rodgers and Pretrial Justice Institute Board Chair had the following reaction:

“Counties across Nebraska–including Douglas County–have been wasting taxpayers’ money to detain people who have not been convicted of a crime and are no threat to public safety. This is why I have joined the Board of Directors for the Pretrial Justice Institute and have invited the Nebraska Supreme Court to join the 3DaysCountTM campaign. Counties in Nebraska should not wait until 2019 to reform their pretrial practices. Counties across the state can learn from states and municipalities that have successfully improved public safety and reduced tax-payer expenses all while ensuring more of their residents are making it to work, school and spending time with their families.”

A copy of the release from the Pretrial Justice Institute can be found here:

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