Correction workers suspended for prison sentencing screw-up

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

Some state correction workers have been suspended in the wake of a massive prison sentencing screw-up which found inmates, some dangerous, getting out earlier than they should have.

Corrections Director Mike Kenney won’t name names and won’t say how many employees are involved. He did note the suspensions are just the beginning.

“In addition to these suspended employees, disciplinary actions are being contemplated for other employees who played a role in the sentencing miscalculations,” Kenney said in a statement released late Wednesday. “The scope and severity of violations by those employees is being evaluated.”

Kenney’s announcement follows what’s described as an independent investigation by the Jackson-Lewis law firm in Lincoln. The investigation’s findings have not been made public but Kenney says he’s reviewed the report and decided it was time to act.

Public documents recently released by the attorney general’s office — in response to an open records request by the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Watchdog – show several state corrections and attorney general’s office employees were aware corrections employees were miscalculating sentences.

The sentencing fiasco was heightened by the fact that correction workers apparently ignored rulings handed down by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

In addition to Kenney’s worker-crackdown he’s promising other steps to “rebuild confidence” in the prison system:

  • Future court orders will be brought to the director’s “personal attention.”
  • All judges’ sentencing orders for each current inmate will be reviewed to make sure the prison’s records “match.”
  • The National Institute of Corrections will conduct an independent review of the Nebraska Corrections Department.

Kenney’s moves come just before Friday’s public hearing by a special legislative committee which has subpoenaed former Corrections Director Bob Houston.

Houston was in charge of the prisons when the sentencing mess was in full swing.

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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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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