LINCOLN, Neb. – A new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska ad campaign urges newly elected officials to make prison reform a priority. The civil rights organization says the campaign will cover the state.
Open letters to Governor-elect Jim Pillen and newly elected state senators appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald today. Billboards are being installed in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Grand Island and Columbus beginning this week. And digital and radio ads are planned for next month.
The ads raise concerns about prison overcrowding, costs and racial disparities in the prison system.
Mindy Rush Chipman, legal director at the ACLU of Nebraska, said the goal is to build energy behind solutions that the vast majority of Nebraskans support.
“The hard truth is that our newly elected officials are inheriting a prison crisis,” Rush Chipman said. “We are years into an overcrowding emergency. The growth in our state’s prison budget is irresponsible and unsustainable. And stark racial disparities, especially for Black and Indigenous Nebraskans, persist. Nebraskans across the political spectrum want an approach that is smart, fair and effective. That is why we are calling on officials to prioritize solutions, not more prisons.”
Polling from 2020 shows that a significant majority of Nebraskans support reducing the number of people in Nebraska’s prisons and increasing use of diversion programs. But despite this widespread support, recent legislative efforts to enact reforms have been unsuccessful, hindered in part by opposition from outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts.
The ACLU of Nebraska advocates for prison reform as part of the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, a nationwide effort to advance policies that help reduce the number of people in prison, address racial disparities and advance community safety.