Gov. Ricketts Applauds Implementation of Justice Reinvestment Initiatives by Corrections
Taylor Gage, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1970
Dawn-Renee Smith, Corrections, 402-479- 5713
LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts applauded news that the justice reinvestment initiatives led by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) have been implemented. Since 2014, Nebraska’s three branches of government have collaborated with the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on justice reinvestment initiatives, which included the successful passage of sentencing reform with LB 605 (2015).
“The collaboration between CSG Justice Center and all three branches of state government has helped move our Corrections and public safety agencies forward,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “This unprecedented, three-branch approach resulted in several initiatives, including sentencing reform, risk/needs assessments and programming reviews, and probation changes to protect public safety and help prepare inmates for reentry into the community upon completion of their sentence.”
“These initiatives have helped reform Corrections, and I applaud our team members for helping implement them,” said Director Frakes. “While we have experienced slower-than-anticipated changes to our prison population, this highlights the need for all three branches of state government to embrace the reforms as they continue to take effect. Our team continues to maintain focus on making these initiatives and other operational improvements successful to protect the public, our team members, and the inmates in our facilities.”
The justice reinvestment process includes multiple changes to Nebraska’s criminal justice system. Several of these initiatives were led by NDCS. The summary below identifies the ones Director Frakes and his team have worked diligently to implement over the past two years:
- Validated Risk Assessment – NDCS has implemented a validated risk/need/responsivity instrument known as the Static Risk and Offender Needs Guide – Revised (STRONG-R). This tool assesses the person’s risk to reoffend and identifies the needs to address to mitigate that risk. It ensures the right person is receiving the right programming and/or treatment which better prepares them for release and leads to a lower rate of recidivism. NDCS continues to improve training and inputs for the STRONG-R Tool and is building quality assurance processes to ensure accuracy and fidelity.
- Administered 7,596 assessments to 5,560 individuals since July 2016.
- Program Evaluation – NDCS partnered with CSG Justice Center to evaluate current programming and treatment through the Justice Program Assessment (JPA). Actions taken in response to the recommendations:
- The implementation and utilization of the STRONG-R meets the recommendation to use risk and needs information and streamlined assessment and referral processes to direct appropriate individuals into programs upon admission to prison.
- Training more than a dozen NDCS staff to deliver the recidivism-reducing, cognitive behavioral program ‘Thinking for a Change (T4C)’ and increasing capacity of the Violence Reduction Program (VRP) are two examples that address the recommendation to expand program capacity by adding to the array of core risk reducing programs, including increasing cognitive behavioral interventions that address criminal thinking, and increase how often programs are provided by dedicating some staff to solely run programming.
- The addition of a program data analyst, program evaluation analyst and two quality assurance specialists meets the recommendation to develop a system to monitor program delivery and outcomes over time.
- Restitution – NDCS promulgated rules and regulations under the Nebraska Administrative Code to ensure greater collection of restitution from incarcerated individuals, including a process to remit payment to the court.
- Post-Release Supervision Plans – Developed a reentry process with the Administrative Office of Probation specific to individuals sentenced to post-release supervision, which includes the sharing of information.
- Medicaid Suspension – NDCS, along with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, has developed a process to ensure inmates who were Medicaid eligible prior to being incarcerated will have their Medicaid status suspended rather than terminated while they are incarcerated. The promulgation of a rule and regulation under the Nebraska Administrative Code has been proposed.
- Mandatory Discharge Report – NDCS and the Board of Parole submit an annual report detailing the number and reasons for individuals discharging from NDCS facilities without a time of supervised release.
In addition to completing the activities noted above, NDCS successfully facilitated several other reforms to make these initiatives a reality. They include:
- Reporting data to CSG Justice Center for tracking and presentation on progress toward completion of goals.
- Developing a Case Managers Academy which will provide specialized training to team members working with incarcerated individuals to move them through the process to the least restrictive environment in the most effective manner possible.
- Leading and participating in cross-training between NDCS, Parole Administration, and Probation Administration.
- Developing reentry training for staff members which includes an awareness of parole and post-release supervision.
- Ensuring NDCS training for Probation’s navigation officers and full access to facilities.