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Nebraska officials refusing to release prison reform reports

October 10, 2021 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officials are refusing to release presentations the state has received from a nonprofit group that is analyzing criminal justice data to help the state deal with severe overcrowding in its prison system.

Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office refused the Omaha World-Herald’s request for those reports from the Crime and Justice Institute because the group of state officials who heard the presentations isn’t a public body, and officials said the information is still in draft form.

“If there’s any legislation that comes out of it, it will go to a hearing just like any other bill and the public will have a chance to weigh in on that,” Ricketts said. At some point, he said, data will be released in support of any prospective legislation.

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The director of the Nebraska ACLU, Danielle Conrad, said it doesn’t make sense to her that presentations given to a committee composed of public officials would be considered drafts.

The ACLU, which has opposed Ricketts proposal to build a new prison, said state officials should uphold Nebraska’s “strong and proud tradition of open government” and release the reports.

State Corrections Director Scott Frakes is expected to address prison overcrowding concerns when he testifies before the state Legislature on Wednesday but it doesn’t appear likely that he will address the work state officials are doing with the Crime and Justice Institute.

“The work of CJI and the associated committee is in progress,” Corrections spokeswoman Laura Strimple said. “At this time, the group does not have any announcements. When they do, we’ll be sure to communicate with you.”