- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A legislative committee will investigate how the state handled the case of Nikko Jenkins, who is accused of killing four people in the Omaha area after he was released from prison.

Senators adopted a resolution Friday creating that special committee as well as one to study the state’s hotline and online public benefits system.

Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha introduced the resolution and said the public needs to know why Jenkins was released. The committee will look at the circumstances of the case and review the administration of the Department of Correctional Services.

Jenkins is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of four people in three separate attacks, which all came within three weeks of his unsupervised release from prison on July 30. He had threatened violence while incarcerated and begged corrections officials to commit him to a mental health institution.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha spoke about problems that solitary confinement can create during debate on the resolution.

“These cells kill people,” Chambers said. “Not physically, many of them do that themselves through suicide, but it kills what in that person constitutes being human.”

Lathrop also said that the committee will look into the overcrowding of the state’s prisons, and expects that the state could be sued over that issue. As of Feb. 28, the prisons were at 156 percent of their design capacity.

Lawmakers also adopted a resolution Friday that would create a special committee to study ACCESSNebraska, which state residents can use to apply for Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.

Supporters of the resolution said the system has had problems with long wait times and lost paperwork.

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, who introduced the resolution, pointed to the audit of the system released last year. A report by the Legislature’s Performance Audit Committee says the system “failed dramatically” to reach its service goals, and was highly dysfunctional prior to Oct. 1.

“Something that was supposed to save the state millions of dollars has ended up costing our citizens in lost dollars, through inefficiencies and valuable time,” Dubas said.

During testimony last month, the director of the Division of Children and Family Services said the average wait time has decreased since changes were made last year. Thomas Pristow also said the division is working with a consultant to find ways to be more efficient.

Both special committees would need to submit their reports to the Legislature before the end of the year.


The resolutions are LR424 and LR400

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