Media Contact

Sam Petto, ACLU of Nebraska Communications Director

April 20, 2021

Protesters stand alongside a Lincoln street, expressing opposition to Gov. Pete Ricketts' plan to build a $230 million prison. 

LINCOLN, Neb. – The ACLU of Nebraska is thanking the Nebraska Legislature for rejecting Governor Pete Ricketts’ misguided push to fund construction of a proposed $230 million prison.

The budget, which passed Final Reading today, sets aside money for reducing prison overcrowding but does not commit to construction of the project. Instead, most state senators have expressed support for withholding major funding decisions until next year at the earliest, following an assessment by the Crime and Justice Institute and other related independent studies.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said this plan keeps the door open for a smart justice approach in 2022:

“An overwhelming majority of the Legislature flatly rejected Governor Ricketts’ misguided plan to rush this through. While the final budget is not perfect, it is a far more prudent approach that will resonate with Nebraskans who understand throwing millions of dollars at a broken system with no plan is not sound governance. Having served eight years on the Appropriations Committee, I commend the leadership of state senators in the face of incredible political pressure as the Governor’s office made every effort to double down on mass incarceration and racial injustice at massive expense to taxpayers. These thoughtful state senators have our gratitude as do the countless Nebraskans who spoke out and organized to advance smart justice solutions. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to chart a better path forward that will protect our shared public safety goals, achieve better outcomes and cost less.”

The push for a new prison follows 20 years of prison spending outpacing growth in other major state funding areas and overall budget growth. Nebraska polling on the issue has shown Nebraskans have significant cost concerns with current prison spending and, in contrast, widely support investments in mental health and addiction services that would help keep people out of jails and prisons.

The ACLU of Nebraska advocates for a smart justice approach that would reduce the number of people imprisoned, address racial disparities and advance public safety. Learn more at