Media Contact

Sam Petto, ACLU of Nebraska Communications Director

January 7, 2022

A group rallies against a new prison outside of the Nebraska State Capitol.

LINCOLN, Neb. – The ACLU of Nebraska renewed its call for smart justice reform today in response to Nebraska’s lead prison administrator revealing Dodge, Douglas and Lancaster County as potential sites for a new prison.

Today’s announcement from Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) Director Scott Frakes comes as state senators consider whether to approve construction of a $230 million prison or to adopt criminal legal reform measures — the goal of a recent comprehensive analysis of the state’s mass incarceration challenges.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said Nebraska cannot morally or fiscally afford an attempt to build its way out of those challenges.

“Senators have a clear choice before them: they can either use proven bipartisan strategies that support our communities and public safety or they can throw money at more iron and concrete,” Conrad said. “This is a moment for principled leadership. Nebraskans want our lawmakers to invest in people, not prisons.”

In December, the ACLU of Nebraska published “Nebraska’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline,” a review of the last five years of legislative activity on the prison system that included recommendations for action. Among the proposals: sentencing reform; investments in diversion and reentry programs; innovations to probation and parole; and continued bond reform. 

The new prison proposal has shifted repeatedly since it was first introduced in 2020. NDCS announced the project as a new prison existing alongside current facilities. It then became a ‘replacement’ for the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) in a plan that involved keeping the penitentiary open with fewer staff. According to Nebraska Public Media’s recent reporting on the subject, NDCS Director Scott Frakes now says “the proposal is to close [NSP] and be done with it,” but adds “a lot of things could change.”

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