20-25 arrest warrants issued following NE sentencing screw-up


Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

Nearly two weeks after word surfaced that state officials dropped the ball releasing inmates before they should have been turned loose, Gov. Dave Heineman says arrest warrants have been issued for some 25 criminals.

Gov. Dave Heineman

According to Attorney General Jon Bruning most of those being sought are not dangerous but he’s still concerned.

“Some of these guys don’t want to go back. Hopefully they’ll come in peacefully.”

The warrants cover eight counties: Colfax, Dawson, Douglas, Gosper, Hall, Lancaster, Sarpy and Scotts Bluff.

Asked if any of the two dozen—their names are not being released—are back in custody Heineman on Friday told reporters at the State Capitol,”Let’s just say the process is underway and leave it at that.”

Arrest warrants have been issued for 20-25 Nebraska inmates who were mistakenly released early.

The Omaha World-Herald first reported the state prison system has been incorrectly calculating sentences, letting prisoners out too early and disregarding state Supreme Court sentencing rulings in 2002 and 2013. Prison employees did not require inmates to serve their mandatory sentence before earning “good time,” which basically cuts their sentences in half.

Heineman and Bruning detailed the latest state calculations acknowledging that the Department of Corrections released 306 inmates early:

  • Of those 257 won’t be going back to prison. That’s because their true release date has come and gone and, while out, they have not committed any additional crimes.
  • Three inmates have died.
  • Five were paroled.
  • Of the remaining 41, reporters are told some are already back in custody, some are awaiting furloughs, one is in the process of being paroled, and “20-25 will be returned to the corrections system.”

During the morning news conference Heineman again noted that mistakes were made and at the proper time those responsible will be held accountable.

He quickly added, “And they better not make a mistake in the future.”

Marc Pelka, program director for the Council of State Governments, who was in Nebraska recently to help the state develop a long-term strategy for dealing with prison overcrowding said he never heard of such a sentencing snafu in other states.

Despite the inmate mess Heineman was adamant that there is “no need for a special session” of the Legislature. But he did urge lawmakers to eventually fix what he says is the state’s broken “good-time” system.

In the meantime Heineman and Bruning said all mandatory minimum sentences imposed since 1995 have been reviewed on a case-by-case basis and as of today 567 current inmates, who were not released early, have had their sentences recalculated.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday at 7:40 a.m. and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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