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New Meth Law Could Fill Nebraska Prisons

Legislative Bill 117 was passed in Nebraska, and brings with it harsher penalties for those convicted of methamphetamine related crimes. 

The meth crackdown comes from the passage and signing of Legislative Bill 117, which included store display and age restrictions for the purchase and sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, a key component of meth. The law goes into effect in September.

The Corrections Department says the tougher meth law could put into prison most of the roughly 400 offenders who otherwise might have entered treatment programs.

The department also says LB 117 could help double prison ranks by 2025.

And even without LB 117, as soon as next year the prison population could reach 140 percent of capacity.

Have you ever seen a person who is an abuser of meth?  This is the progression, in this woman’s case, over 10 years:

Have you ever seen a meth lab?  Here’s a rather clean one:

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska, which now carries the reputation of "Meth Capital of Nebraska."  There have been meth labs built in homes, such as the one above, or in the trunks of cars.  There have been cases where meth labs are set up on an unsuspecting farm owner’s property, only to be discovered when the foul smell creeps up to the farmhouse, putting the family living there in danger.  There are even cases where houses once containing meth labs are sold to new owners, who have become sick once they move in due to the lingering toxic chemicals. 

I think the lawmakers are doing the right thing passing this law.  I’ve heard of too many people dying due to meth, seen parents put their children at risk due to meth use, seen people threatened, assaulted and almost murdered because of what this drug does to people.  There have been a couple of incidents that have touched me personally and I’ve seen what the drug can do to a person’s life.  I honestly don’t find anything wrong with putting most of the offenders in prison versus rehab.  This isn’t pot, people.  This drug is bad and it changes people in a bad way and they cause harm.

Our nice little local newspaper, the Omaha World Herald, notes that it is possible that the governor could parole inmates if the capacity percentage gets too high.  Please note the COULD portion of that sentence.  Methinks the OWH writer could be a bit biased and perhaps not happy with the passing of this law, perhaps even overreacting a bit.  Not that I *ever* thought that nice little paper could ever be biased outside their opinion page [intentional sarcasm here].

Nebraska prisons are sitting at 134 percent capacity, according to Steve King, Corrections Department spokesman. 

"The philosophy of incarceration being a significant solution to the problem is obviously contrary to community corrections being a solution," said John Icenogle, district court judge for Buffalo and Hall Counties. "But the Legislature has said this problem is so severe they don’t trust it to community corrections, and we have to accept that."

That’s right, John, accept it.  I think they are right.  I also believe that because prosecutors will still have discretion on charges, the alarm being sounded is somewhat premature.  The affect on the prison population was also a consideration when reviewing the bill says Aaron Sanderford, spokesman for Gov. Dave Heineman.

In the back of my head, I can’t help but wonder how often the "affect on the prison population" is considered and causes law makers and/or judges to not do the right thing by taking criminals off the street.  If laws don’t have any teeth, i.e. prison time, how can a person who is considering the manufacture or delivery of meth be positively influenced?  If we saw a 50% increase in murders, would we just give them parole because of prison overpopulation?  Or set a pedophile free from prison to make room?  Maybe those criminals who were sentenced to death should actually have that penalty delivered versus spending their life in jail - those criminals seem to be taking up a good deal of prison space.  If need be, build another prison.  People know the law, and there should be consequences.  If we actually took criminals off the street, we may actually have safer parks and neighborhoods, and cities, and small towns - including the one this small-town girl was born and raised in.

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