State of Nebraska
BOARD OF PAROLE
Parole Officers Participate in Project Homeless Connect
On October 16, 2018, two Parole Officers out of the Lincoln Regional Office were among the over 300 volunteers who helped put together the 10th Annual Homeless Connect Lincoln. Senior Parole Officer Don Nevins was a navigator as he has been in years past and Specialized Parole Officer Andrea Wever was part of the “Dream Team”, a group of ten experienced navigators that were there to guide new navigators. This event was in conjunction with Stand Down, the Veterans Administration’s event to assist homeless and near homeless clients in the Lincoln and surrounding areas.
This event greatly impacts this community in a variety of ways. Clients are matched up with services and service providers who can assist in ever expanding ways. Legal services were on site to help clear misdemeanor warrants, deal with child support issues, and advise in legal matters. There were reentry services, housing services, utility services, substance abuse providers, early childhood intervention, and many others. At this event over 1,000 meals were served, 60 companion animals received essential care and grooming, 98 immunizations, 47 people received foot care, 85 dental screenings, 57 vision screenings, 74 people utilized the job search area, 190 haircuts, 16 bikes were repaired, numerous bike locks were given out, and 100’s of people were given clothing, blankets, and toiletries. A whopping 576 people in this community were served on that day.
This event continues to grow every year. Many of these clients are also clients of parole and previously incarcerated individuals. It is a great aid to be able to get all these groups and services in one easily accessible location. Service providers were wonderful to work with and if they could not help a client they often knew another provider who could. The Lincoln Homeless Commission was able to celebrate at this year’s event that Lincoln had reached Virtual Zero on veteran homelessness. This is due in part to all the hard work at this event and others for which they assist. Furthermore, Serve Nebraska recognized the volunteer group as a finalist for demonstrating leadership, innovation, and hard work in service to others in the State of Nebraska.
Parole Supervision Adopts New Risk Assessment
On June 1, 2018, the Nebraska Board of Parole – Division of Parole Supervision (DPS) moved from the Static Risk Offender Needs Guide – Revised (STRONG-R) assessment to the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS). The primary consideration in making this change was a desire to have a risk assessment tool specifically developed for community supervision. Unlike the STRONG-R, which is a single assessment intended to be used with clients at all stages of the corrections system, the ORAS is a suite of nine assessments, and if fully implemented could be used to follow a client from presentencing through final discharge. At this time, DPS is utilizing two components of the ORAS, the Reentry Tool (RT) and the Community Supervision Tool (CST). The RT is intended to be used with clients just before they make the transition from incarceration to community supervision, while the CST is intended to be used with clients who are already in the community.
The RT is being used as part of a pilot project within the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS). Parole Officers are assessing inmates who are set for parole hearings using the RT. One goal of this project is to get the inmates assigned to an appropriate officer, based on risk, prior to the parole hearing. The Reentry Officers then facilitate contact between the inmate and their future officers. This allows officers to begin building relationships earlier, which, in turn, allows them to hit the ground running once the inmate is released.
Once clients are released on parole, they are assessed using the CST. The CST is used to establish the client’s risk of reoffending and to identify his/her criminogenic needs. Criminogenic needs are the individual characteristics of the client that are likely to lead him/her into new criminal behavior. This combination of risk and need drives the decision making process while the client is under supervision. The risk dictates the level of supervision for each client. Risk is also a major consideration in determining the level of discipline for noncompliance. Parole Officers use the criminogenic needs to determine what programming and treatment the clients will be involved with. A major reason that the ORAS was chosen over competing assessments is that it, like our case management and case planning tools, was developed by the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute (UCCI). This provides our officers with a huge advantage because their primary supervision tools are designed to work together seamlessly.
DPS is very excited about the move to this new assessment system and tremendous progress has been made toward implementation. By the end of October, all parole clients will have been assessed using the ORAS. We have also already achieved most of our technological integration goals. The assessment software passes data automatically to our behavior management system as well as our electronic case file system, making work much more efficient for both field supervision staff and administrative staff.
Parole Staff Participate in Recovery Room Redo Challenge
The Mental Health Association of Nebraska (MHA-NE) operates the Honu House, which is a peer-operated respite for those that are battling mental health, substance or trauma issues. Many of their clients are those that are involved or have been involved with the criminal justice system. The Honu House provides a lot of their bed space to parole clients.
In April 2018, they moved into a bigger space, which was four times larger than their previous space. So in order to help furnish the rooms MHA came up with a little friendly competition called the “Recovery Room Redo Challenge” to help furnish and decorate the 20-room, 16-bathroom space. Each team was tasked with creating a recovery friendly environment and had only two days to do it. In those two days, each team had a list of required items that had to be in the room but was only limited by their imagination.
On June 1st and 2nd parole staff participated in the Recovery Room Redo Challenge. Everyone helped in some way or another by either donating money, items, their time, their muscle and vehicles to transport the bigger items. The name and theme of the room was “Serenity”. Even though we did not take home the win, it was a great experience and all the teams’ rooms turned out amazing.
**Click on link below to view photos of renovations completed by Parole volunteers**
IN GRATITUDE TO OUR MILITARY VETERANS
The Division of Parole Supervision recognizes our Parole Officers and other Parole staff who have served our country. Our gratitude and thanks to these dedicated men and women of Parole who sacrificed their freedom for the freedom of others must always be at the forefront of the foundation of this great country. Often times, their sacrifice goes unnoticed, yet these men and women understand what it means to serve. Their service continues as Parole Officers, striving to ensure the safety of our communities. Parole Officers also work with clients who have served in the military. We are grateful for the service our clients have given for our country. Parole thanks all who have served.
Lincoln Parole Volunteers at Saratoga Elementary Fun Night
The Lincoln Parole Office continues to be a partner in the Saratoga Community Advisory Group (CAG). The CAG consists of various community groups that partner with Saratoga Elementary School in an effort to continue to provide positive community growth and involvement with the students and families of Saratoga Elementary School. Some of the other community participants of this group include: Saratoga Elementary teachers and administration; churches; area small businesses, neighborhood residents; and the local High School Student Council Club.
On May 11, 2018, the CAG sponsored the Annual Saratoga Fun Night. This event provided an evening of fun, games, and food for Saratoga Elementary students and families at a minimal cost to the families. Money raised from this event goes back into the school to provide resources for needy families. CAG members volunteered their time to serve food and run raffles, outdoor games, and other activities for students and their families. Approximately six parole officers, support staff, and supervisors volunteered at this year’s Fun Night.
Mental Health Awareness Month
Understanding the impact of mental health within our community, as well as individuals involved in post-supervision and parole is important. How mental health is treated and viewed has changed dramatically over the past decade or so. This is evident by the increased dialogue pertaining to mental health, recent advancements in psychotropic medications, as well as the shift from institutionalized care to an increase in community based services. With the additional and continued studies of mood and personality disorders, society has acquired a greater awareness of some of the diagnoses that have existed for quite a while.
The more we increase our awareness of what the “presentation” of a mood disorder, or personality disorder looks like, we increase our ability to interact with someone, and decrease the potential for escalation during that encounter. For example, gaining a greater understanding of the symptomology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), can empower someone with additional options when attempting to de-escalate, or grounding an individual during a triggered flashback. These are important insights to possess, as they allows us an opportunity to foster the best possible outcome available to us.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year. Estimates suggest that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment. The Washington Post also published an article stating “American prisons and jails housed an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in 2012.” These were inmates that at some point were or will be released, either because of a mandatory release date or a parole eligibility date. This number is not representative of the state of Nebraska, but puts the overall number into a national context.
The more we improve our understanding of mental health disorders, the better prepared we can be when working with some parolees. Additionally, we may encounter people beyond our employment settings that are balancing the challenges associated with a mental health diagnosis. More understanding opens the door for more empathy, which can go a long way when establishing trust and rapport with people.
David E. Carter PLADC, BSW