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Governor and AG propose 'earned time' law

January 13, 2014

LINCOLN - - Today, Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced new legislation requiring inmates convicted of the most violent crimes in our state to earn a reduction in a prison sentence rather than receive it automatically. Instead of "good time" credit, Gov. Heineman and Attorney General Bruning are offering the idea of "earned time" credit.

"It is time to eliminate automatic 'good time' credit for the most violent inmates," said Gov. Heineman. "The safety of our citizens should be priority number one and that starts with violent criminals being required to earn any reduction in their sentence, rather than automatically receiving it."

"Inmates should actively earn sentence reductions," said Attorney General Bruning. "This bill is the next step in our efforts to protect Nebraskans."

The legislation will be introduced during the current 2014 Legislative Session by State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha.

"The current 'good time' law has been in place for over two decades without serious change," said State Sen. Lautenbaugh. "Given the recent high profile criminal events in the past year, I believe Nebraskans want and expect the Legislature to change the current 'good time' law."

This 'earned time' legislation will replace the current so-called 'good time' law. Under current law, inmates sentenced by the judicial system to serve terms with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services automatically have their sentenced reduced by half for their term of incarceration.

The 'earned time' proposal requires inmates convicted of the most violent crimes to earn a reduction in their sentence. The proposed legislation would apply to inmates who commit the most violent crimes including murder, manslaughter, first degree assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, escape, assault of an officer, assault by a confined person, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and similar offenses committed after the bill would become law.

Gov. Heineman added, "Many Nebraskans are unaware of the automatic sentence reductions under 'good time.' They believe that when a judge sentences someone to 20 years that means the person would serve 20 years, not 10 years, which is the reality under current law. It's time to change the 'good time' to 'earned time' law."

For comprehensive change, there are two parts to reforming 'good time.' There are Nebraska's rules and regulations, as administered by the Department of Correctional Services, and the current 'good time' law.

Last month, Gov. Heineman signed rules and regulations related to the Department of Correctional Services and the administration of 'good time' credit. The new rule allows for corrections officials to take away twice as much 'good time' for misbehavior, including assaults on corrections officials and other prisoners. The new maximum penalty allows for up to two years, instead of one year, of 'good time' loss for inmates.

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