Omaha – School of Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty members Benjamin Steiner, Ph.D,. and Emily Wright, Ph.D., along with Ryan Spoh, Ph.D., the director of the Nebraska Center for Justice Research, have partnered with Douglas County to assist with the design and evaluation of an assessment and reentry case management services to be implemented at the Douglas County Detention Center. The new screening assessment will focus on identifying the risk and criminogenic needs of individuals booked into the detention center. Once an inmate’s needs are identified by the new assessment, appropriate case management services will be determined, providing inmates with referrals to services geared toward supporting their successful reentry into the community. The assessment and corresponding case management services are intended to reduce the rate of recidivism among individuals placed in the detention center.
According to Mark Foxall, Ph.D., director of the Douglas County Department of Corrections, “the ability of corrections staff to conduct an assessment of each and every inmate coming into the facility provides a critical opportunity to identify what potential medical, mental health, or community needs those individuals might require as part of a plan to successfully reintegrate to the community. The support of case managers plays an equally important role as these professionals work with the inmate and community providers to carefully craft a plan that is designed to remove barriers and help the inmate succeed.”
Consistent with Foxall’s observation, assessing inmates’ risk to reoffend and criminogenic needs, along with providing corresponding reentry case planning, is critical to evidenced-based correctional practice. The high volume of persons booked into local jails relative to prisons, along with the high rate of turnover among jail inmate populations, present significant resource challenges to jail staff responsible for assessing inmates’ risks and needs and developing reentry plans.
“A scientific evaluation of this initiative is important to ensure that the Department of Corrections gets it right. The evaluation can guide practitioners, in real time if need be, to make changes in the program if it appears that desired outcomes are not being achieved. The evaluation can also reinforce the need to stay the course if early outcomes are having a positive impact on the population. Moreover, the evaluation can point to the need for additional personnel and programmatic resources,” said Foxall.
The three-year project is funded indirectly by a private foundation, which provided $1,750,000 to Douglas County to initiate the reentry program and related evaluation. The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s funded portion of the contract is $312,658. The project will also involve School of Criminology and Criminal Justice doctoral students Ebonie Epinger and Nicky Dalbir.
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