One of my hopes with revisiting this project was to connect with organizations I didn’t have a chance to “dig deeper” with last year and I am happy to report that has happened. A huge thanks to Allie Curttright, Development Associate, and the team at ACLU of Nebraska for sharing more about their organization’s work. Please read more below and join me in making a donation.
Why is it critical to serve the population you support in the state where you are?
The ACLU of Nebraska is proud to serve all Nebraskans. Often, those we help are the most vulnerable populations in our state. For example, the ACLU of Nebraska is the only professionally staffed LGBTQ advocacy organization in the state. That makes our work on LGBTQ rights particularly important. This year we did several important LGBTQ outreach programs such as our Transgender Rights Deep Canvass and our Transgender Voices Tour. Another vulnerable population that the ACLU of Nebraska is uniquely positioned to help are those who are incarcerated. In Nebraska, the prison population has grown so much that not only are all Nebraska prisons operating at over 100% capacity (some at nearly 200%) but also the system is so large and so broken that one in ten Nebraska children will have a parent in the criminal justice system. After years of vocal advocacy in the media and at the State Legislature, the ACLU of Nebraska is currently trying to address the conditions of prison overcrowding with a class action lawsuit. This lawsuit seeks no money damages; the only thing our clients are asking is that the problems caused by overcrowding such as lack of access to medical care, are addressed in a meaningful way. The ACLU of Nebraska has also filed a lawsuit challenging the 2016 ballot referendum that reinstated the death penalty in Nebraska. This lawsuit challenges the referendum on the grounds that it was funded and organized by Governor Pete Ricketts, violating Nebraska’s strict separation of powers laws, and that those currently serving on death row could not be effectively resentenced to death by a ballot initiative after the state legislature repealed the death penalty over the Governor’s veto.
The ACLU of Nebraska is also an organization that possesses a wide range of tools to address problems. Our organization uses public education and community outreach, lobbying, and litigation in any combination necessary to achieve a more fair and equitable Nebraska.
What will ACLU of Nebraska main focus(es) be in 2018?
The ACLU has several priorities for the coming year. Our organization will continue to fight for the rights of those currently incarcerated. Our prison class action litigation and death penalty litigation are both cases that will continue on into the next year. In addition, the ACLU of Nebraska is working with state senators to pass legislation addressing concerns brought up by our investigative reports. Our jail calls report revealed that those in county jails are being charged exorbitant rates to make phone calls to friends, family members, or even their attorneys. Another report that focused on women in prison found that there is not adequate access to feminine hygiene products. The feminine hygiene products that prisons and jails provide for free are reported to be of poor quality and often difficult to access. In addition, the feminine hygiene products sold in the canteen are priced higher than comparable products sold in supermarkets. These are just a few of the criminal justice pieces that we’ll be working on.
While you struggle against serious challenges in Nebraska what is something positive that those of us outside of Nebraska should know about the state or its people?
There are certainly many bright spots in Nebraska despite the challenges. One thing that we pride ourselves on is our Unicameral non-partisan legislature. It is the only legislature of this type in the country and it can lead to some very thoughtful decisions on tough issues. The Nebraska Legislature did vote to remove the death penalty in Nebraska and even overrode the Governor’s veto to do so. Nebraskans are also willing to collaborate. Recently, the ACLU of Nebraska hosted several events across the state with the Platte Institute, an economic research and advocacy organization that fights primarily for limited government and economic freedom. Together, the ACLU of Nebraska and the Platte Institute did a public education tour on professional licensing. This public education tour came out of the joint concern that Nebraska’s professional licensing policy is discriminating against those with a felony conviction.