Lawmakers to consider special investigation of Nikko Jenkins' imprisonment -
Published Monday, February 10, 2014 at 4:57 pm / Updated at 12:39 am
Lawmakers to consider special investigation of Nikko Jenkins' imprisonment

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Legislature would conduct a special probe into the state's imprisonment of Nikko Jenkins under a resolution advanced by a committee on Monday.

Jenkins stands accused of four slayings in the Omaha area just days after his July 30 release from prison.

Before his release, Jenkins, who said he took orders from an Egyptian god, had threatened to kill people when he left prison and had also asked to be committed to a mental hospital.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha said that his release under those circumstances raises several questions about the state's prison system, including the adequacy of mental health care, the use of disciplinary segregation and why prison officials didn't seek a mental health commitment.

“He promised to kill people, and we do nothing about it,” Lathrop said.

The Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee, if approved by the full Legislature, would utilize existing legislative staff and issue a report by Dec. 14.

The Legislature's Executive Board voted 9-0 to forward Legislative Resolution 424.

Lathrop, an Omaha trial attorney, has experience in such special investigations. He led the Legislature's probe of the troubled Beatrice State Developmental Center that led to several improvements in the care of the developmentally disabled.

State prison officials have said they had no choice but to release Jenkins because he had completed his prison sentence. They have said he did not suffer from a mental illness that would respond to treatment.

The special legislative committee would work in conjunction with the Legislature's Performance Audit Committee, which recently authorized a preliminary look at the issues surrounding the Jenkins case.

Also on Monday, the Executive Board advanced a second resolution for a special legislative probe. Legislative Resolution 400 would create an investigation of the much-criticized shift of social service applications from caseworkers to call centers called ACCESSNebraska.

Critics testified Monday that callers signing up for Medicaid and food stamps often have long waits on hold, get inaccurate information and face long waits for services.

Thomas Pristow of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said that changes made since last fall have shortened wait times on the phone to about 9.34 minutes for Medicaid applications and 12.5 minutes for other public benefits.

Contact the writer: Paul Hammel    |   402-473-9584    |  

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues and helps coordinate the same.

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