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PNS Daily Newscast - September 30, 2020 


Trump and Biden square off in a debate marked by interruptions; COVID-19 highlights neglect of undocumented residents.


2020Talks - September 30, 2020 


Last night was filled with interruptions at the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Social Distancing Not an Option in Nebraska's Overcrowded Prisons

The U.S. District Court of Nebraska holds a status hearing today on an emergency motion requesting the release of the state's plan for prevention, management and treatment of COVID-19 in Nebraska prisons. (USAF)
The U.S. District Court of Nebraska holds a status hearing today on an emergency motion requesting the release of the state's plan for prevention, management and treatment of COVID-19 in Nebraska prisons. (USAF)
April 14, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska's overcrowded prisons could put their incarcerated residents at greater risk of an outbreak of COVID-19, and a coalition of legal groups want the state to share its plans for keeping those serving time, prison employees and their families safe.

Adam Sipple, legal director at the ACLU of Nebraska, said many prisons are operating at 200% capacity, and one facility has three times as many people as it was designed to house. In some facilities, more than 50 people are held in spaces designed for 16.

"We're getting reports that four inmates are being housed in a 7-foot-by-15-foot cell, with two sets of bunks and four lockers, and that the cell is so crowded that only one person can move at a time," Sipple said.

Three juveniles at a facility in Kearney have COVID-19, along with six staffers. Sipple said the number of adult cases is unknown because of a lack of testing.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has said it's following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control on hygiene, and Gov. Pete Ricketts has argued that releasing inmates early could pose a public safety risk.

Sipple said Nebraska has a constitutional and moral obligation to protect people in custody, and noted that people are released from prison on parole every week because they're eligible and not a risk to public safety. He said combing through the files to find such individuals would help bring the population down to a safer level.

"It's very difficult for us to believe that with 800 parole-eligible incarcerated Nebraskans, we can't find a substantial number of that 800 that could be released without threatening public safety," he said.

The U.S. District Court of Nebraska is set to meet today, by phone, for a status hearing on an emergency motion filed last week that asked the court to require the state corrections agency to provide a COVID-19 prevention, treatment and management plan.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE