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ACLU Sues Nebraska Over Prison Overcrowding, Claims ‘People Are Being Killed’

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Nebraska Wednesday claiming the state’s overcrowded prisons have created an unconstitutional humanitarian crisis.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges the overcrowding and lack of adequate medical care in Nebraska’s 10 state prisons constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating the 8th Amendment. The ACLU is making good on a warning earlier this year that it would sue if lawmakers didn’t take action to address the issues. The state’s prisons have been at 160 percent capacity for the last two years, The Columbus Telegram reported Wednesday.

“Nebraska state prisons are in a state of chaos that endangers the health, safety, and lives of prisoners and staff alike on a daily basis. For over twenty years, Nebraska state prisons have been overcrowded, under-resourced, and understaffed,” the lawsuit claims. “The result is a dangerous system in perpetual crisis. Prisoners are consistently deprived of adequate health care, including medical, dental, and mental health care, and denied accommodations for their disabilities.”

The ACLU names 11 plaintiffs in the case — three women and eight men from five separate prisons. All the plaintiffs are inmate with disabilities or conditions that the ACLU claims have gone untreated or under-treated while incarcerated.

Michael Gunther, 62, claims he went blind in one eye because his prison refused to treat his diabetes. The ACLU claims that Patrick Howley, who committed suicide in 2014 while being held in solitary confinement, repeatedly begged for help and took his life when his calls went unheeded.

The ACLU demands that prisons accommodate the mental and physical conditions of inmates, even going so far as to outlaw solitary confinement for those with a mental illness.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts plans to fight the lawsuit, claiming the state has already implemented justice reforms to address overcrowding and that the ACLU’s demands for improved medical treatment go too far.

“By requesting we release dangerous prisoners endangers the public safety, and through their other request could endanger corrections officers by limiting the tools they use to manage inmates,” Ricketts told KETV Omaha.

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