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Gov. Ricketts, State Leaders Announce New Public Safety Initiative

Media Contacts: 

Taylor Gage, 402-471-1970

Justin Pinkerman, 402-471-1967


Media Release:

Gov. Ricketts, State Leaders Announce New Public Safety Initiative


Gov. Ricketts (podium) announces a new public safety initiative at  this morning’s press conference.


Gov. Ricketts (podium) announces a new public safety initiative at

this morning’s press conference.


Video from today’s briefing is available by clicking here.


LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts joined with State Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers, and the Legislature’s Judiciary Chairman Steve Lathrop to announce a new public safety initiative.  The State is formally submitting a letter to the United States Department of Justice to request funding for a partnership with the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) to conduct an in-depth analysis of the State’s criminal justice system.  The analysis will examine three areas: sentencing, release, and supervision. 


The CJI has partnered with numerous states to identify opportunities to reduce recidivism rates and save costs.  Its work begins with thorough evaluation and information gathering.  Using a data-driven approach, the CJI then develops a set of recommendations for policymakers in areas such as the courts, probation system, and prisons.  Through the partnership, the State expects to generate a set of legislative and administrative policies to consider for implementation in 2022.


Gov. Ricketts: Criminal Justice System

  • Today, we’re launching an initiative that brings together the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to improve our criminal justice system.
  • We’re working with the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) to apply to the U.S. Dept. of Justice for a grant to assess our criminal justice system.
  • Assuming we get the grant, we’ll hire CJI to review what we’ve done in the past, look at the data we have, and make recommendations on how we can best move forward.
  • From early on in my administration, we’ve been taking steps to improve our criminal justice system.
    • A key part of this process was LB 605, which implemented a series of sentencing reforms. 
    • Working with the Legislature, we’ve invested $175 million to modernize our facilities and build our prison capacity.
    • We’ve expanded programming to better prepare inmates for re-entry.
    • Working with Senators, we have made investments in facility security upgrades, purchased new equipment, and given Corrections officers pay raises. 
  • Nebraska is a state that protects public safety, and we do it without over-incarcerating:
    • Nebraska has the nation’s 15th lowest rate of incarceration.
  • We have room for improvement, such as reducing the operational capacity of our prison system.  
  • Additionally, the Nebraska State Penitentiary is nearing the end of its useful life.  I’ve proposing funding to replace this aging facility.
  • Through the partnership with CJI, we’ll look at the areas of sentencing, release, and supervision to identify more ways to improve our criminal justice system.
  • This will be a data-driven effort.  Using the data, we’ll convene a task force to evaluate how to best reduce recidivism rates to lower our corrections population.
  • I foresee opportunities to improve probation and parole.  We may also be able to make further use of specialty courts, and the great work they’re doing to transform lives.


Chief Justice Heavican: Criminal Justice System

  • I think it will be very effective to have the three branches of government work together on criminal justice initiatives.
  • Judges in the judicial branch sentence people.  
  • In Nebraska, probation is part of the judicial branch; hence we supervise both juveniles and adults who are on probation.
  • We also have adult probation, which does pretrial investigation for judges when it comes to sentencing.
  • Our branch also does supervision when people are placed on probation, and we do re-entry supervision on most of the folks coming out of jails or prison settings.
  • Our judges are doing many specialty courts.
    • We have drug courts, re-entry courts, a new mental health treatment court in Sarpy County, and veterans’ treatment courts as well.
    • These specialty treatment courts have been very effective in helping to change lives.
  • We are happy to participate in this effort to see how we can do things better.


State Senator Lathrop: Criminal Justice System

  • This is the beginning of an opportunity for Nebraska to get smart on crime.
  • Part of the solution may involve building and part involves corrections reform.
  • In recent years, we’ve vastly improved our ability to provide reliable data.
    • The Nebraska Crime Commission has done great work on improving the data collection and reporting system, which will benefit this new initiative.
  • CJI is a very credible group with experience in states across the country.
  • CJI will spend roughly six months doing a data dive.  It will be very beneficial to have an outside organization assemble information in a way that’s meaningful to policymakers.
  • A task force will then consider what solutions are appropriate based on the data.
  • This initiative will reveal where reforms need to be made.
  • Enhancing public safety is the overarching goal of this process.


Speaker Hilgers: Criminal Justice System

  • The Legislature was a proud partner in the previous effort on LB 605.
  • Successful ingredients for an initiative like this include:
    • A willingness to improve
    • Having the right people at the table
    • Having the right methodology
  • We have these ingredients in place, and the Nebraska Legislature will be a committed partner in this process.


Video from this morning’s press conference is available by clicking here.