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by KEVIN O'HANLON
Monday, Oct. 16, 2006 at 3:09 PM
Victimless drug war crimes continue to be the main reason the Amerikan police state jails people. - Nebraska will have to double the size of its prison system to accommodate inmates caused by the state's new methamphetamine law
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska would have to nearly double the size of its prison system to accommodate a dramatic increase in inmates caused by the state's new methamphetamine law if nothing is done to find alternatives to prison for many offenders, according to a new study.
The study done for the Department of Correctional Services said the get-tough meth law which took effect last year -- combined with normally expected growth in the prison population -- could require and additional 4,726 prison beds by 2025.
That's an increase of 90 percent from present capacity.
The new capacity would cost an estimated 8 million to build and add another million in operational costs annually.
The report said that the prison system would have been expected to expand to 2,360 inmates by 2025 without the meth law. The report said that increase alone would call for 4 million in new construction and an additional million a year in operating costs.
"The capital and operational impact is virtually the equivalent of creating a parallel correctional system," the study said.
State lawmakers passed a bill (LB117) in 2005 to crack down on the manufacture of methamphetamine and toughen sentences for those who make, sell and use it.
"Unless the requirement for incarceration is mediated through subsequent legislation, the potential impact on incarceration and resultant bed space needs is the most significant of any legislation enacted to date," the report said.
The report emphasized that the Community Corrections Council is working to develop ways to treat offenders with addictions that could require less time in prison, thereby reducing the need for expanded prison beds.
The meth bill was a favorite of Gov. Dave Heineman.
His spokesman, Aaron Sanderford, said, "This study does not account for Community Corrections and its potential impact on prison populations.
"The governor has no interest in entertaining the notion of building a new prison, nor will he apologize for a law that puts dangerous meth dealers behind bars," he said.
In 1997, lawmakers approved building a million prison in Tecumseh. They also started to examine alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, an effort that eventually grew into the Community Corrections Council.
As of July, there were 4,135 inmates in the Nebraska prison system - which was 130 percent of design capacity.
The governor has the power to order the early release of inmates when the system reached 140 percent of design capacity.
The study also raises concerns about treating meth addicts in prison.
"Withdrawal care and addiction treatment will be necessary to assist these inmates in breaking their addictive cycle," the report said. "Beyond the standard care, however, these inmates are likely to exhibit deteriorated physical condition, in some cases breakdown of organ functioning.
"Methamphetamine is so physically destructive and so pervasive through the user's body that this new population is likely to place unusually high demands on the existing medical, dental, and treatment infrastructure within the system, the report said.
Meth, also known as crank, ice or crystal, is a powerful stimulant that can be easily manufactured.
It can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected.
Meth produces a quick, strong high and can lead to paranoia and terrible fits of withdrawal. Experts say it is as harmful to users as heroin and cocaine.
There are an estimated 20,000 people in Nebraska with a meth problem.
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