- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A legislative committee says in a newly released report that tough funding decisions must be made to get the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services back on track.

The department has been caught up in what one senator describes as a “vicious cycle” of bulging prisons and high staff turnover contributing to other problems, including safety risks for employees and inadequate treatment and rehabilitation programs for inmates.

The report released Thursday blames the problems on a lack of resources and funding over several years. Among the report’s 33 suggestions is fully funding and expediting the department’s budget proposals.

“Getting the department back to where it needs to be will require significant resources in the next legislative session and beyond. Tough decisions need to be made,” said state Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks of Lincoln, who has led the special legislative committee looking into problems in the state prison system. “Our state budget can no longer be balanced on the back of cuts in corrections.”

But officials say solving the problems with more money may be problematical in the coming legislative session. The lawmakers are facing a $900 million projected revenue shortfall for the next two-year budget.

The special legislative committee was created two years ago to study problems with the state corrections system. Those included the case of a mentally troubled inmate who killed four people in Omaha shortly after his release in 2013, and a sentencing-miscalculation scandal involving the premature release of hundreds of inmates.

The committee’s latest report came after 10 public hearings over the past year.

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