It’s been over a year since the ACLU of Nebraska, the ACLU National Prison Project, Nebraska Appleseed, the National Association of the Deaf, and the law firms of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld and DLA Piper filed our historic federal class action challenging dangerous overcrowding and unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Nebraska’s crisis-riddled prison system. 

The State of Nebraska is fighting us at every turn. While we are grateful for our incredible legal team and their resources to help shoulder this large and complex litigation, we remain the David to the state’s Goliath. 

And yet, we are making important headway. In August, litigators from California and D.C. conducted three days of depositions with state prison leaders about how confusing and broken the internal grievance process is for our clients to request help with their medical needs, or challenge the severe overuse of solitary confinement, or secure reasonable accommodations for their disabilities.

The next big hurdle is to certify the class. Eleven named plaintiffs bravely stepped forward to bring this case for themselves and other similarly situated persons. Our legal experts spent November touring facilities around the state to evaluate conditions, interview prisoners and make the case that the complaints of our plaintiffs represent the state’s incarcerated population as a whole. 

There have been some short-term wins as a result of this work, including for our client Jason Galle, who, after our intervention, finally received an operation on his broken femur after suffering without medical attention for years. 

When we certify the class, we will gain the right to represent the 400 women and almost 5,000 men incarcerated in Nebraska’s prison system. At 156% of its capacity, it is the second-most overcrowded system in the U.S. 

This case is about human rights, racial justice, disability rights and mass incarceration. We remain open to a reasonable settlement at any time, but are preparing to go the distance. Trial has been set for 2019.

 

photo: ACLU of Nebraska’s Danielle Conrad announced the lawsuit against the Dept. of Correctional Services in 2017.  photo credit: Nebraska Radio Network

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