The Jail Standards program is established under Chapter 83, Sections 4,124 - 4,134 of the Revised Statutes of Nebraska. An eleven member Jail Standards Board appointed by the Governor is responsible for the promulgation and enforcement of minimum standards for the maintenance, operation, and construction of adult and juvenile criminal detention facilities. The Board has the authority to petition the district court for closure of facilities failing to comply with the Standards. Staff support to the Board is provided by the Jail Standards Division of the Nebraska Crime Commission. The minimum jail standards have been in effect since 1980. The minimum juvenile detention facility standards have been effective since 1993.
The primary responsibility of the Jail Standards Division is the implementation and administration of the Jail Standards and Juvenile Detention Standards program. Major activities related to this function include:
- Inspection and Enforcement. Staff conduct annual inspections of each detention facility to monitor compliance with the Standards. Written reports of such inspections are prepared and submitted to the Jail Standards Board for review and official action. Each of the state’s 72 active jail facilities and 4 juvenile detention facilities receive an annual inspection. The Jail Standards Board meets quarterly to review reports and take action.
- Technical Assistance. It has been the desire of the Board to provide assistance, where possible, to assist detention facilities in meeting Standards. Technical assistance has been provided in the following areas:
- Facility Planning.
- Resource Development.
- Data Collection. The Division collects information on the characteristics and flow of inmates through local detention facilities. The “Jail Inmate Records and Statistical System (JIRS)”, the “Jail Admission Management Information Network (JAMIN)” and the “Nebraska Criminal Justice Information System (NCJIS)” provide an on-going database that is critical to both state master planning and planning at the local facility level. For communities planning construction of new detention facilities, this data is essential in determining appropriate size and design characteristics.
The new Nebraska Jail Data Specifications (2.0) were published on October 1, 2021. All Nebraska jail and correctional agencies are required to adhere to these new specifications by October 1, 2022.
The Jail Standards Division attempts to improve conditions and operations in local jails through implementation of Standards to lessen the potential for successful litigation against local officials. Inmate initiated litigation over the last thirty five years of the last century resulted in the evolution of a well-defined body of correctional case law by which jails and detention facilities are bound to abide. With increasing frequency, inmates are successfully challenging jail conditions and practices when they fall short of these clearly established minima. The state, through this program, has accepted the responsibility to monitor and regulate local detention facilities to insure compliance with Standards written to reflect these constitutional requirements. If the Board fails to adequately carry out this responsibility, the state could be held liable as well.