Prison sentencing errors to be costly for Neb.

Nebraska prison officials say the errors made in calculating sentences for hundreds of inmates will cost the state about $4 million over the next decade


Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska prison officials say the errors made in calculating sentences for hundreds of inmates will cost the state about $4 million over the next decade, but at least one lawmaker says the cost is likely to be higher.

The state Department of Correctional Services released a preliminary cost estimate on Friday, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The miscalculated sentences of nearly 600 people were discovered after the Omaha World-Herald reported that the state was using a flawed formula in cases since 1995 involving mandatory minimum sentences.

Officials estimate that correcting the sentences will cost the state as much as $10 million through 2064.

But Omaha state Sen. Heath Mello, who leads the Appropriations Committee, said that he thinks officials are understating the costs and that he plans to submit more questions to the department.

"They are trying to whitewash their mistakes," Mello said.

Officials used a cost estimate of $6,422 per year that includes food, clothing, supplies and medical care but doesn't include guards, administrative costs or possible new prisons.

Corrections Director Michael Kenney said he asked his staff to review the miscalculations extensively. He said the report's estimate of costs for the next 10 years is more firm than the long-term predictions for the next 50 years.

Kenney said he doesn't believe new prisons will be needed to handle the corrected sentences.

The state has found 567 inmates still in prison whose sentences needed to be extended by one year to nine years.

Fifteen inmates who had been released either have been or will be returned to prison to serve additional sentences between six months and 4 ½ years.

Thirteen other released inmates were returned to the re-entry furlough program to serve between one months and eight months.

Kenney said in the letter that many of new sentences are unlikely to add costs. For example, one inmate who was admitted in February 2013 had his sentence extended to the year 2177 from his incorrect mandatory discharge date of 2167.

In their calculations, the department considered the difference between an inmate's original discharge date and the new date as well as the average age of death in the state of 75.

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