Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle asked state officials Monday to keep inmates who were convicted of violent or gang-related crimes from getting a chance at furlough programs or early release from prison.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The mayor said he wants the Omaha City Council to make recommendations for a bill when the Legislature convenes in January, according to the Omaha World Herald (http://bit.ly/XN9w8t ).
Suttle said he's concerned because of recent high-profile incidents involving furloughed inmates.
"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."
His comments followed last month's shooting death of 29-year-old Omaha resident Jermaine Lucas, who was out on a two-day furlough to spend time at his mother's home. Lucas was shot and killed by police officers who were responding to an apparent gang shootout.
Police say the officers fired after Lucas refused an order and reached for a gun that had fallen from his waistband.
Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford said lawmakers have already requested input from the city's police chief, the Department of Corrections and county attorneys. A corrective action plan is due to lawmakers by Dec. 6.
Ashford said the concerns will be addressed, but he wants to avoid a kneejerk reaction based on individual, high-profile cases. Ashford serves as chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, and is also running for mayor.
"What we need to do is get the facts and find out what happened in this case, and what corrective actions are necessary and appropriate - and we will do that," he said.
Ashford said state and city officials can likely address the issue through administrative rule changes instead of passing new laws, and should also focus on better information-sharing.
Suttle said he would like to eliminate a "good time" early release option for the most serious violent offenders. He said he also opposes early release programs that allow an inmate to serve less than the minimum sentence imposed, and would like to see early rehabilitation programs for specific offenders set by the Parole Board.
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."
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
(Image courtesy of Stock.xchng)