LINCOLN — Beginning Jan. 1, Nebraska prison officials will be able to penalize state prison inmates more severely for serious misbehavior behind bars.
Gov. Dave Heineman gave final approval Monday to new rules that will allow inmates to lose twice as much “good time” for assaults and other disciplinary problems.
For instance, the new rules allow up to two years of good time to be taken away for an assault that causes injury to a guard or to another inmate. The current maximum penalty is one year.
Under state law, for each day an inmate spends in prison he is given a day's reduction in his sentence. Such “good time” can be taken away for misbehavior, but a World-Herald analysis indicated that prison officials rarely did that.
The Nebraska Department of Corrections proposed the tougher rules in the wake of the arrest of Nikko Jenkins, charged with killing four Omahans shortly after his release from prison July 30.
The governor and others have called for changes in good time policies, saying that Jenkins should have forfeited more good time for disciplinary problems while he was in prison.
Heineman also wants hardened criminals to have to earn good time rather than get it automatically, as under current policies.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, long an advocate for inmate rights, has said he will seek to overturn any changes in the state's current good time policies.
Chambers has said that good time policies played no part in the Jenkins case; that, rather, it was poor mental health care within the prison.