Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle is calling on state lawmakers to pass laws that would keep inmates convicted of violent or gang-related crimes from getting a chance at furlough programs or early release from prison.
The mayor said Monday that a handful of recent incidents involving inmates that have been released for good behavior has him worried about the safety of residents and police officers in Omaha. He said he wants the Omaha City Council to make recommendations to the Legislature for a bill that would be introduced in January.
“Our police force and county attorney's offices do their parts,” he said. “The City of Omaha is collaborating with community organizations and neighborhood associations more than ever before to identify and report perpetrators of drug and gang activities so violence can stop. But state law is standing in our way.”
Among the new rules Suttle would like to see for serious offenders:
» No “good time” early release option for the most serious violent offenders.
» No early release programs that allow an offender to serve less than the minimum sentence issued for the crime.
» Rehabilitation programs for specific offenders set by the Parole Board.
» Better public notification of inmates on furlough through an inmate locator website.
Suttle and Councilman Ben Gray said furlough and early release programs should still be an option for other offenders.
But officials said they were ready for tougher tactics for people involved with guns and gangs. Councilman Garry Gernandt said he plans to start working with the council on a set of recommendations.
“It sure seems to me that we have better tracking and preventative measures on political candidates than we do on inmates,” Gernandt said. “That's got to change.”
Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and a mayoral candidate in Omaha, said he and others are aware of Suttle’s interest in scaling back furloughs and the early release of inmates. His committee is scheduled to meet to discuss the issue in early December.
He said he wants to take time to figure out if some changes can be made by individual cities and law enforcement agencies without new legislation.
“We will spend whatever time is necessary to come up with a viable option,” he said.
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