Bill Proposes No Early Release For Violent Criminals

By: Leah Uko

OMAHA (KPTM) - Making violent criminals serve their full sentences and not letting them out on weekends for good behavior--Nebraska lawmakers continue to debate the measure introduced one month ago today.

Efrain Umana was convicted for raping an 11-year-old girl in Iowa and Omaha.

Police shot and killed Tyree Bell when he held his three-year-old son as a human shield.

Both men had been let out early on "Good Time" before.

"Don't do that. Don't put our cities in harms way, make it unsafe and put us in a serious liability issue. Don't do that," Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle said.

Suttle supports Legislative Bill 379 that proposes criminals convicted of violent, gun and repeated violent crimes should never be eligible for early release, nor granted a furlough.

"The question is--why are they out on the weekends? That's not when companies hire, they hire Monday through Friday," Suttle continued. "So why are they out on weekends? We need to follow what Iowa is doing."

In Iowa, inmates have to serve up to 70 percent of their sentences before granted early release. Inmates in Omaha can serve around 45 percent.

"South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa the surrounding states they realized--don't commit crimes over there because there are a lot tougher sentences," President of the Omaha Police Officers Association, Sgt. John Wells said. "Basically we've become a safe haven for criminals and that's outrageous."

State Senator Brad Ashford said the Judiciary Committee will look into options of tossing the "Truth in Sentencing Bill"--but it will cost.

"There would need to be at least one or two prisons--new prisons built," Ashford continued. "Each prison would be in the $100 million dollar range. That's money that would come out of state education issues."

Suttle pointed out that if space--not money--is the issue, that non-violent offenders take up more space in prisons than violent criminals.

LB 379 is on the committee's calendar for next Wednesday, February 27th.

The bill, authored by State Senator John Nelson and co-sponsored by Rick Kolowski and Bob Krist also proposes that the Chief of Police in cities be notified two weeks before an inmate is released into metro areas.