Aside from Keno and limited horse racing venues, gambling is illegal in the “Good Life” state and has been so for years. Ironically though, there’s a state sanctioned shell game taking place down in the capital city every day. It’s a high-stakes game of chance designed to make sure that “the house” wins every time. Only in this case, “the house” is the “state house”, the biggest losers are too often public safety and crime victims, and the “shell game” is “Good Time early release” for violent and repeat offenders.
“Good Time” is essentially a complex mathematical equation that automatically chops violent offenders’ prison sentences (for offenses such as murderer, robbery and rape) in half the first day they walk in the door of the correctional facility.
It’s a shell game wholly intended to save the state money and (in the opinion of many police officers and victims) confuse the public.
To understand how “Good Time” works, you first have to understand how criminal sentences work in Nebraska.
Imagine you are the victim of a violent crime.
You cooperated with the police. You testified in court. You endured brutal cross-examination by the defense attorney. The judge ultimately found your attacker guilty and now you sit in the courtroom and await the sentence.
The Judge rules, “I sentence you to a minimum 7 years and a maximum of 10 years in prison”.
You pump your fists in celebration and think to yourself, “Wow, that’s a lot of prison time!”
But wait…you need to understand that in Lincoln, the words “minimum” and “maximum” do not mean the same thing as they do in the Webster’s Dictionary.
In Lincoln, 7 to 10 years really means 3.5 to 5 years in prison, sometimes even less.
For purposes of easy visualization, imagine minimum and maximum prison sentences as thick, long tubes of stinky expired Braunschweiger meat that a convict must eat as punishment for his crimes.
Now, imagine you are looking from the perspective of the criminal being sentenced.
For your crimes, the judge has orders you to eat “at minimum 7 inches, to a maximum of 10 inches of disgusting Braunschweiger”.
Pretty gross, right? (If you happen to be one of the ten people in the world that actually likes Braunschweiger, insert your least favorite food here.)
You and the retched tubes of Braunschweiger are then handed off to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDOCS) which responsible for making sure you choke down the prescribed amount.
As you sit down at the prison table (knife in one hand, fork in the other) your stomach churns as you stare at those two plump, sweating tubes of nastiness. Suddenly, in walks Bob Houston (NDOCS Director) and for some reason he’s carrying a meat cleaver.
Suddenly he chops the maximum 10 inch tube of meat in half and says “the Good Time laws dictate you will never have to eat more than 5 inches…”. He then turns and lops the minimum 7 inch tube of meat in half and says, “…but once you eat at least 3 and a half inches, you can request to eat no more and be released.”
“But Mr Houston..” you say “I don’t understand. I just sat down at the table and I haven’t even been *good* yet.”
Houston replies, “It doesn’t matter, but if by chance you actually are *good*, state laws will allow you to eat even less.”
Not a bad deal for you ehh?
Aside from one of the very few offenses that carry a mandatory minimum, sentence “Good Time’s” impact on prison sentences (even for offenses such as rape, murder, robbery and felony assault) is literally just that simple.
Once you serve half of your minimum sentence you are eligible for early release via parole. Once you serve half of your maximum sentence you automatically “jam out” of prison and you are scott free.
There really is no “minimum” and “maximum” at all.
It doesn’t exist.
Even if the minimum and the maximum are the same flat number of years.
And even if you weren’t “good” while in prison.
Stay tuned for part 2.
It only get’s worse and you will likely start to achieve an even greater understanding of why Omaha cannot seem to get a handle on the violent crime that we constantly face.
Additionally, you will learn even more about this high stakes Lincoln “shell game”, and why the “winner” is designed to always be the state budget and why the losers are too often innocent victims and sometimes even the offenders themselves.