January 16, 2021

Dawson County Journal

Serving Dawson County Nebraska

Peterson: End of ‘Overcrowding’ Suit Against NE Prisons More than a Dismissal

Peterson: End of ‘Overcrowding’ Suit Against NE Prisons More than a Dismissal

Nebraska’s Attorney General says the end of the ACLU-Nebraska lawsuit against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services was more than just a dismissal, it was a clearing of the allegations leveled against that department by the 11 plaintiffs.

During a virtual news conference today (Friday) Doug Peterson said federal officials and the lawyers for the civil liberties group did not find what they were alleging in trying to certify the cases as a class action under the umbrella of ‘overcrowding’.

“This lawsuit was based on the argument that you had so many prisoners that, therefore, you had deficiencies in health care, dental care and mental health care,”said Peterson, “and what the examinations of three years of discovery proved, is that no, in fact, we don’t have a system-wide problem, and as a matter of fact, our system works well in those areas.”

Peterson says managing 5,400 inmates is an extremely difficult job, and under Director Scott Frakes’ leadership, improvements in the areas under examination were already underway well before the lawsuit had been filed.

“I think there’s this notion that, somehow, people keep throwing out ‘overcrowding, overcrowding, overcrowding’. Well, yes, our corrections system does have to address it’s capacity, and in fact the Department of Corrections is in the process of building a…  380-some bed facility currently to address crowding issues,” said Peterson. “That’s always going to be an issue, but if you were to take the pleadings that were filed by the ACLU in this case, you would assume it would be replete with all these examples of inmates put in overcrowded situations, and frankly, that’s not what the pleadings were about.”

He noted says federal court rules required the State to agree to the dismissal requested by the plaintiffs, and even after that happened, the ACLU decided not to pursue the individual claims as presented, and he doesn’t anticipate a similar case will be filed any time in the near future.

Peterson: End of ‘Overcrowding’ Suit Against NE Prisons More than a Dismissal