In 1957, under LB 568, Nebraska adopted a general statewide system that provided for a planned, uniform system of presentence investigations, case studies, and coordinated supervision of offenders eligible for probation under court suspension of sentence. Organizationally, the Nebraska District Court Judges Association was initially granted power to exercise general supervision over probation in all district courts. District judges within each probation district appointed Chief Probation Officers who served at the pleasure of the judges. From 1958 to 1971, the statewide probation system functioned primarily for adult felons and supervision of misdemeanants from the county courts was performed as a “courtesy.”
In 1971, the Legislature passed LB 680 which provided for administration of probation in district, county, and juvenile courts, except for the separate juvenile courts; created the Office of Probation Administration and outlined the office’s duties; created the Field Probation Service and outlined its duties as well as the procedures for discharging offenders from probation; and provided a mechanism for the supervision of offenders through the Interstate Compact. In 1972, LB 1032 created a unified county court system and formally allowed for supervision of probation cases from the county court. In 1978, LB 624 was enacted which provided that “county courts shall be prohibited from appointing probation officers after the effective date of this act.” In that same year, LB 625 was enacted creating the Nebraska Probation System Committee whose function was to “assist the Office of Probation Administration and the Probation Administrator in developing policies and standards for Field Probation Service.” In 1985, the Legislature passed LB 13 which merged the municipal courts of Lincoln and Omaha into the county court systems of Lancaster and Douglas counties and placed the Probation personnel of these courts under the supervision of the Office of Probation Administration. The Probation personnel of the separate juvenile courts of Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties were also placed under the Office of Probation Administration.
By virtue of LB 529, the Legislature on July 1, 1986 placed Agency 06 (District Courts/Probation) under the Nebraska Supreme Court (Agency 05). The bill called for the Nebraska Probation System Committee to serve as an advisory committee until its duties were taken over by the Nebraska Probation Advisory Committee on July 1, 1988. The committee’s role was to provide advice to the Probation Administrator and Supreme Court regarding Probation matters. This committee was abolished by the Supreme Court on May 14, 1998, when the court alternatively elected to designate a Supreme Court judge to serve as liaison to the Probation system.
In 1990, the Legislature provided for the implementation of an Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP) program. ISP is designed to serve as an intermediate sanction between traditional probation and jail or prison for adults or state commitment for juveniles. Through utilization of a targeting tool, select offenders who have been deemed appropriate for this sanction may be sentenced to ISP. Organizationally, the state is divided into six ISP regions. Each is staffed by a Coordinator, line field staff, and support personnel. Twenty officers were hired as part of this initial program in 1990. An additional five juvenile ISP officers were added in 1991 and five more ISP officers were added in July, 1995.
In 1997, the Legislature passed LB 881 directing the Department of Correctional Services to develop and implement an incarceration work camp no later than January 1, 2005, where adult criminal offenders could be placed as a condition of a sentence of probation (codified in Neb. Rev. Stat. 83-4,142 - 83-4,147). This legislation outlined the work camp’s structure and core programming and directed that the court target certain types of eligible felony offenders. Probation’s responsibility centers around assisting the court in identifying and assigning appropriate offenders to the work camp, responding to any acts of non-compliance while said offenders are in the work camp, and performing an aftercare role once the offender has completed the work camp and transitions back into their community. Within Probation’s FY99-01 biennium budget, thirteen employees, ten of whom were ISP officers, were allocated to accommodate this new intermediate sanction. After several years of collaboration between the Department of Correctional Services and the Nebraska Probation System, this facility became operational April 30, 2001, under the name of Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Work Ethic Camp (WEC).
In 2001, the Legislature passed LB 451 so as to streamline the practice of juvenile intake and allow for a consistent and uniform method of decision-making when the issue of post-arrest detention/placement is requested by law enforcement (codified in Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-250, 43-253, and 43-260). In doing so, such legislation clearly solidified juvenile intake as an exclusive Probation function. Seven juvenile intake probation officers were allocated within Probation’s FY02-03 biennium budget to administratively strengthen Probation’s ability to successfully implement this new function statewide.
The practices of juvenile intake were further clarified in 2003 by the passage of LB 43, specifically as it relates to Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-250 (3) and (4). Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-250 (3) was amended to clarify that a peace officer retain temporary custody over a juvenile pending a probation officer’s detention decision; and 43-248 (4) was amended to clarify that a peace officer shall contact the Department of Health and Human Services, not Probation, when seeking temporary placement of a juvenile defined within 43-248 (3).
In 2003, the Legislature passed LB 46, herein referred to as the “Community Corrections Act,” which promulgated a number of criminal justice reforms that directly affected the administration of probation services. Major key components included the following:
- Establishment of a Community Corrections Council within the Crime Commission to oversee and ensure that a continuum of community corrections is developed for use by probationers and parolees – Section 47- 619 through 47-634, Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).
- Establishment of probation and parole enrollment and monthly programming fees to support enhanced programming and services as well as a procedure and criteria for determining ability to pay – Section 29-2262.06, Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.) and a Probation Program Cash Fund – Section 29-2262.07, Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).
- Establishment of a procedure and method of imposing certain administrative sanctions by probation officers for technical offender violations – Section 29-2266 (1), Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).
- Elimination of presentence investigations in 3A misdemeanor and below class offenses, related traffic and city ordinances – Section 29-2261 (2), Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).
- Require that the Supreme Court develop sentencing guidelines by court rule. Guidelines for felony drug offenses are to be developed first and delivered to the Court by July 1, 2004. An advisory committee comprised of law enforcement representatives, county attorneys, district court judges, defense bar members, and others the Supreme Court deems appropriate may assist in the development of the guidelines – Section 47-630, Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).
- Creation of a Community Corrections Uniform Data Analysis Fund administered by the Executive Director of the Crime Commission, funded by the assessment of an additional $1 in court costs and utilized to support data integration efforts amongst a wide array of criminal justice entities – Section 47-632, Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).
- Adoption of Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision – Section 29-2639, Neb. Rev. Stat. (2003 Supp.).