Nebraska’s ‘Culture of Incarceration’ Must be Addressed, Say State Lawmakers

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Photo by Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

Several Nebraska state lawmakers are promising reform measures to cut down its youth detention numbers following the release of a prominentAnnie E. Casey Foundation report indicating Nebraska had the nation’s third-highest rate of juvenile incarceration in 2010.

According to the KIDS Count data snapshot released last week, Nebraska was one of only six states in the nation to experience an increase in juvenile incarceration rates from 1997 to 2010, growing by eight percent over the 13-year study period.

State Sen. Brad Ashford (I-Omaha), inan Associated Press report, said new legislation was vital in addressing the state’s “culture of incarceration.”

“I do not feel we can wait anymore for a real solution to our issues involving juvenile justice,” he told the AP. “This effort is essential.”

A “non-partisan” state senator representing Lincoln, Amanda McGill, is proposing a pilot program that would provide training and assistance to primary care doctors within the state to catch potential behavioral health issues early. Another of her proposals would create a “state fellowship program,” which is designed to draw more behavioral experts to Nebraska.

“I think it’s a very important measure in preventing kids from getting to the level of contact with our courts system,” she said. “And trying to get them the services beforehand.”

Ashford said he would like to see Nebraska create secured juvenile centers focusing on treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration by at least 2015.


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