(KFOR NEWS April 26, 2021) Governor Ricketts has proclaimed this week to be Reentry Week in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) is celebrating achievements made in meeting the needs and providing key services to those who are incarcerated and preparing for release.
Deputy Director Dawn-Renee Smith previously served as administrator for reentry services at NDCS. “Helping people find their path to being productive members of their communities is paramount to public safety. We have expanded significantly over the years in terms of the services provided, community partnerships and our ability to serve the incarcerated population.”
93% of those committed to NDCS are released at some point during their sentence. Two-thirds of those individuals will discharge within three years.
“Reentry begins at intake,” said Smith. “Everything that we do is guided by that premise. By the time people are prepared to walk out the door we want to ensure they have all the tools and support they need, whether it is access to education or employment, transportation, housing, medical or mental health support services. We take a multi-layered, multi-prong approach to keeping people focused on that goal.”
“Successful reentry is about supporting public safety – in our communities, in our state and across the nation,” added NDCS Director Scott R. Frakes. “It takes the efforts of many people working within our agency and from the outside to create that type of transformation.”
Annually, 2,700 people discharge from NDCS.
“That is a significant amount of churn,” noted Dir. Frakes. “Depending on their sentence structures, some will continue on parole or probation. We work closely with those agencies to ensure a warm handoff between our services and theirs, so that the reentry process is as seamless as possible.”
Dir. Frakes said one of the things for which he is most proud is the quality of work that continued for the past 14 months during COVID-19. “We may have been hampered in bringing in volunteers and hosting some programs and events, but where we were able to maintain connections and keep things moving, we did. Just this month the agency hosted a virtual reentry fair, where we invited around 40 organizations to share information about their services. What we learned, and what they learned from each other will help inform the types of programs that can be provided, going forward.”
The Vocational and Life Skills (VLS) program, funded by NDCS, is a prime example of how private-state partnerships can facilitate reentry initiatives. Nine organizations currently receive money to provide education, transitional housing, employee readiness, skills training and other support services to men and women in and leaving NDCS.
“That program has caught the attention of other correctional systems across the country,” said Dir. Frakes. “It is the type of state investment that promises to pay off ten-fold and represents another initiative aimed at putting people on the right path to more productive and meaningful lives.”
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