Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The Tipping Point: Have Nebraska’s Prisons Crossed into Unconstitutional Territory?

The Tipping Point: Have Nebraska’s Prisons Crossed into Unconstitutional Territory?

Donahue, Joel, Amy Miller, Alan Peterson. The Tipping Point: Have Nebraska’s Prisons Crossed into Unconstitutional Territory? Nebraska: American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, March 2014.

“The line between permissible and impermissible conditions of confinement is blurry and courts have struggled as if looking through a glass darkly. Conditions at Nebraska’s overcrowded prisons have been teetering on the edge for some time but may finally have crossed into unconstitutional territory. Taken as a whole, Nebraska’s prisons are at 155% capacity, with some being much more overcrowded. For example, the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) is at 183% capacity, the Omaha Correctional Center (OCC) is at 190% capacity, and the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center (DEC) is at an incredible 278% capacity. For comparison, the California prison system that was the subject of successful litigation on the issue of overcrowding was at roughly 200% capacity systemwide… In the following pages and endnotes, we will briefly discuss the standards governing prisons in Nebraska and throughout the United States. We will then turn to several specific areas where our preliminary research shows that conditions may violate the Eighth Amendment standards and principles governing prison conditions and thus be ripe for litigation.”

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Keywords: mentally ill, Eighth Amendment, 8th Amendment, litigation, health