The Nebraska Center for Justice Research (NCJR) within the UNO College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS) has completed extensive evaluation work in facilitating reentry into the community of formerly incarcerated individuals in Nebraska.
Two recent reports have been produced from experts in NCJR. Led by researchers, Michael Campagna and Katelynn Towne of UNO’s NCJR, one report describes the work of state-funded reentry agencies, their successes, and the barriers that they continue to face in working on second chances for this population. The second report tells the personal stories of persons who were and were not successful in their reentry endeavors. These reports have been disseminated to the Department of Corrections, state legislators, and community stakeholders.
Vocational & Life Skills Evaluation Annual Report
Researchers at the Nebraska Center for Justice Research have been evaluating the impact a statewide vocational and life skills reentry program initiative is having in Nebraska. This year’s annual evaluation report utilized multiple forms of data that demonstrate how programs are helping participants find employment after incarceration and feel supported while overcoming reentry challenges and barriers in Nebraska.
Ready & Resilient: Qualitative Findings from Life Story Interviews with Vocational and Life Skills Program Participants
NCJR researchers conducted 21 life story interviews with VLS program participants to understand more about how these reentry programs help some VLS participants successfully reintegrate after incarceration, while others continue to struggle or return to prison after release. Findings shed light on the complex lives of those who get involved in the criminal justice system and demonstrate how programs positively motivate individuals to make prosocial lifestyle improvements.
Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., Director of Nebraska Center for Justice Research, shares the importance of this crucial research. “The correctional system in Nebraska is one of the most overcrowded in the country. This work is helpful to the Nebraska legislature because they need to know that programs are helping increase odds to employment after incarceration, which serves as a protective factor to recidivism, thus reducing our incarcerated population in our state. It is also consistent with our community engagement mission here at UNO and within CPACS.”
These reports originated from NCJR are some of the first to present the significant employment benefits of participating in VLS programming in Nebraska and demonstrate how programs support participants as they overcome reentry challenges in the State. Until this point, little evidence existed outlining the positive benefits of this statewide initiative.
“These reports are wonderful products that reflect NCJR’s mission to use research and evaluation to assist the State and the Legislature in efforts to reduce recidivism and decrease prison overcrowding, while improving public safety,” says Spohn. “What I like most about these reports is that they include quantitative research, for people who like to “see the numbers,” as well as qualitative research, for people who like to hear more of the context and the stories of individuals reentering the community from correctional facilities. We put a lot of work into making these reports attractive and accessible to all of our stakeholders who want to learn more about the important process of working with our reentry population to reduce the chances that they will end up re-incarcerated.”
Researchers within the NCJR have received positive feedback on the reports produced from program providers who are sharing these reports with practitioners in other states who are trying to replicate the initiative started here in Nebraska. Moving forward, the plan is to provide a copy to all participates interviewed through this research to show the magnitude of their time spent with the research.
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