Nebraska officials defended the system that released violent gang member Jermaine Lucas on furloughs, says the Omaha World-Herald. They said Lucas as a good prisoner who committed only one infraction while behind bars. He was so well-behaved that they allowed him 11 furloughs, and he had worked his way up to 48-hour stays with a family member on the outside. Lucas, 29, was shot to death by police Sunday when officers said they saw him lunging for a gun. Nebraska corrections director Robert Houston said his staff members screen prisoners as well as they can but that no system is perfect. “If we had reason to believe that this person was a public risk, we would have never sent him out on furlough to begin with,” Houston said.
The head of the Omaha police union and the chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee are questioning the furlough program, which is designed to prevent convicts from re-offending. State Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he was assured by corrections officials that Lucas had gone through an extensive evaluation — as do all prisoners — before he was placed in the furlough program. Nonetheless, it appears that Lucas “fell through the cracks. Hindsight is 20/20. He committed a very violent act. Public safety was in danger, and we can’t have all that.” It’s likely that the Judiciary Committee will review the furlough program, but Ashford called it a valuable tool in helping rehabilitate qualified inmates and said that, in the vast majority of cases, it works well.