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Get to Know the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

By Governor Dave Heineman

Oct. 16, 2009

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

The mission of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is to serve and protect the public by providing humane care and program opportunities to the 5,300 inmates and parolees placed in its custody. The department’s chief responsibility is to protect Nebraska citizens. Correctional officers and staff fulfill this duty through the operation of safe, secure, clean, and orderly prisons and community centers, and by offering programs and treatment that reduce the rate of reoffending behavior. 

One of the major achievements within the department is an effort that has more than doubled the number of substance abuse treatment beds at correctional facilities, and developing new male and female acute mental health care units that provide clinical services to violent and sex offenders 

Both initiatives target high-risk inmates with programs and services designed to reduce the likelihood of individuals returning to prison. Inmates diagnosed with substance abuse issues receive treatment that prepares them for less restrictive facilities and, then, as a step back into society upon their release or parole. By addressing substance dependence issues and other factors, these services help reduce the likelihood of future offenses and recidivism by help inmates develop skills to live a responsible life.  

Research shows a correlation between the lack of education and incarceration. Another significant and successful effort within the department has been the expansion of educational services.

With the help of the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility became a special purpose high school. The focus on inmate education has produced a dramatic increase in the number of students completing their General Educational Development (GED) test. By offering opportunities for inmates to obtain their GED or high school diploma, corrections officials are helping inmates develop the skills to become law-abiding, responsible citizens. These skills have a direct impact on lowering recidivism.

Inmates have jobs assignments during their incarceration. Whether working in prison food service, being part of maintenance and grounds crews, or sewing clothes as part of the Cornhusker State Industries program, inmates are expected to fulfill the responsibilities that come with their jobs. The department offers meaningful opportunities for inmates to learn job skills essential for the majority of inmates who will one day look for employment in our communities.

Inmates earn a daily wage beginning at $1.21 a day. Five percent of wages paid are placed into individual accounts to use upon release or parole. All inmate amenities like TV, radios, recreation equipment, and self-improvement activities are paid for by inmates or through profits generated by commissaries at state facilities. Those employed in private industry jobs pay taxes and deposit an additional five percent of their wages in the State’s Victim Compensation Account.

As a result of these and many other efforts, Nebraska has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation and a corrections budget that, as a percentage of the state budget, is one of the lowest in the country. The low confinement rate is due in large part to the low return rate of inmates released from Nebraska prisons, which compares very favorably to a recent national study.

The Department of Correctional Services remains committed to keeping our state safe by providing security and care for Nebraska’s prison population. 

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