Nebraska inmate gets 18-20 years for collision involving prison van he was driving


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LINCOLN, Nebraska — A Nebraska inmate on Monday was given more prison time for the death of a Lincoln woman who was in a vehicle struck by the state prison van he was driving last year.

Jeremy Dobbe, 36, had pleaded no contest to manslaughter in the death of 47-year-old Joyce Meeks, who was killed June 25, 2013, in Lincoln. On Monday Dobbe was sentenced to 18 to 20 more years in prison.

Dobbe was seen speeding and swerving before he struck Meeks' minivan. Dobbe was transporting inmates as part of a state work-release program. Prison records say Dobbe already was serving five to seven years for selling meth, threatening people and making criminal mischief.

Nebraska officials have agreed to pay $2 million to the Meeks family, which had sued the state Correctional Services Department and several officials. The lawsuit said the state was negligent for letting Dobbe behind the wheel of the van and alleged that Dobbe was driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or some other intoxicating substance.

The lawsuit also said officials should not have approved Dobbe for driving privileges because of his history of chemical abuse, his sentence and other factors.

Department officials have said they reviewed prisoners' criminal history and driving records before allowing them behind a wheel. Drivers must also pass a weekly drug test. Two weeks after the collision, corrections director Robert Houston ended the inmate driving program, which began in 1985.

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