State of Nebraska
BOARD OF PAROLE
Ms. Rosalyn Cotton, Chair of the Nebraska Board of Parole was recognized recently by the Bellevue University by being asked to be one of the five speakers at the Women of Government seminar. The program was provided by five dedicated women of the Omaha area who have played major roles in government. Their contributions and hard work in our State were inspiring narratives. Attendees were encouraged to participate in the question and answer sessions with these women.
On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, Parole Supervisor Todd Rosenthal represented the Division of Parole Supervision (DPS) and participated in the Lincoln Correctional Center Reentry Fair held at that institution. There were approximately 20 other community vendors who participated in the Reentry Fair. This was a great opportunity for DPS to collaborate with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and other community vendors represented.
During the event, Rosenthal visited with incarcerated individuals regarding expectations of parole and how best to prepare for a successful parole term. Individuals inquired about residence requirements, employment requirements/restrictions, programming available in the community and across the state, and many other topics. Individuals also came to discuss their proposed parole plans and asked for input/insight on what more they could do to assist themselves in being successful when paroled or discharged.
DPS was honored to be part of this event.
Parole Supervisor Tom Verplank was presented a 2019 Excellence in Leadership award by the Honorable Pete Ricketts during a ceremony in the State Capitol Rotunda on November 6, 2019.
Tom was recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty to help his team and Parole staff within the agency. He is a supervisor who assists team members, meeting with clients when team members are not available. Although in a supervisory role, he also willingly goes into the field with officers and assists in taking drug tests when other officers are not available. He is always concerned about officers’ safety and routinely checks on them to ensure they are accounted for when in the field. Tom also assists other supervisors in their absences and provides guidance to their team members during those times. He is forward thinking, values people, and has high ethical standards.
He defines what a good leader is and is most deserving of this recognition.
Kariah Goynes recently commented “Bristol Station and the Hastings community have been the best choice I could have made”. He had been sentenced to prison for an offense that he tremendously regretted and told himself that lifestyle was not going to get him anywhere in life. While in prison for five years, he decided he needed to focus on himself and get a fresh new start. That new start commenced at Bristol Station in Hastings on February 21, 2019, after being granted parole.
Kariah expressed upon his arrival at Bristol Station he had a desire and interest in welding and an even stronger desire to build on his strong work ethic and build upon his skills. After several months of working at Nebraska Prime, he connected with Associated Staffing in Hastings and was referred to Hastings HVAC. He was later offered a full-time position at Hastings HVAC where he continues to work as a welder.
During a meeting with Bristol Station staff, Kariah spoke of training opportunities he had been offered as well as 401K benefits he would be eligible for as it related to his future with the company. His positive approach and outlook to his career aspirations were immediately noticeable. As he continued to focus on his employment, he also committed himself to participating in recommended programming at Bristol Station and complying with his parole conditions. Throughout his time spent at Bristol Station, he focused on himself and supporting his family. Kariah’s commitment to himself and his family were exemplified in his frequent supported trips to Omaha to do what he could to support them, particularly his son. During his meetings with staff at Bristol Station, he always presented himself in a jovial manner and didn’t hesitate to share his life’s story as well as speak of his determination to work toward his future, his job, his family, and himself.
Prior to successfully discharging from parole, Kariah commented to staff that Governor Ricketts would be touring his work site. Kariah said he looked forward to the opportunity of meeting such a man; however, he wondered if the Governor would be willing to meet a man like Kariah. Several days later, Kariah proudly showed staff a photograph of himself and Governor Ricketts. Kariah said he had the opportunity to speak with the Governor and shared with the Governor aspects of Kariah’s life. Although nervous, Kariah said he was appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to have met the Governor. Kariah has chosen to remain in the Hastings community because of, as he stated, “the people, the work and the support” he has received since arriving in the community.
In December 2019, the Lincoln Regional Parole Office and Administrative Services staff of the Division of Parole Supervision participated in the “Saratoga Adopt-a-Family” event. For this event, the Lincoln Parole Office staff purchased and wrapped gifts for a Saratoga Elementary School family.
On November 14, 2019, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Central Office and the Division of Parole Supervision partnered for their annual chili cook-off competition. Cost for a meal was $5 or a donation of hats or mittens. Three hundred dollars and a number of hats and mittens were collected. All donations collected went to Saratoga Elementary School to benefit students and families of Saratoga.
Chair Rosalyn Cotton is pleased to announce that the Nebraska Board of Parole and Division of Parole Supervision (NBOP/DPS) was recently awarded grant funding for the Bureau of Justice Assistance FY 19 Innovations in Supervision Initiative: Building Capacity to Create Safer Communities. These awards will provide opportunities for community corrections agencies across the country to increase their ability to assist in the reduction of crimes committed by individuals supervised in the community on parole and probation.
NBOP/DPS was awarded $553,445 for a total of 4 years, from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2023. The funds will be used to develop a violence-reduction aftercare program and cognitive-behavioral interventions (CBI) groups across the state. CBI groups will maintain an open group structure with the aim of reducing the recidivism rate of high-risk parole clients and in particular those identified as likely to reoffend violently and those who previously have not been successful on community supervision.
Numerous initiatives have been undertaken since the Division of Parole Supervision was placed under the Board of Parole on July 1, 2016. Most recently focus has been on the expansion of programming related to criminogenic needs of parole clients. Earlier this year, the leadership at NBOP/DPS reviewed parole outcomes for inmates who had completed the Violence Reduction Program (VRP) while in prison; VRP is an evidence-based program which was developed to reduce the likelihood of inmates who are high risk for reoffending violently. The findings pointed to a need for the agency to develop evidence-based community supervision programs that target violent reoffending since programming has generally been limited to anger management, batterers intervention, and life skills courses or programs. A review of the outcomes also pointed to a small proportion of parole clients driving revocations and failing supervision, making it clear that more needs to be done to address the criminogenic needs of high-risk repeat clients.
NBOP/DPS has been working with clinicians since 2018 to administer programming for parole clients. Contracting with these clinicians allows the agency to serve those at the highest risk to reoffend and those who have repeatedly been unsuccessful on parole. Work has already begun to develop the VRP aftercare pilot program, the first of its kind in the nation, with the assistance of Dr. Stephen Wong and Dr. Audrey Gordon, the creators of the VRP program for the prison system mentioned previously. In addition, planning and development have already begun to create curriculum and standards for an open structure CBI group pilot program which will allow clients to join groups upon being released to parole supervision rather than having to wait several weeks until a new group has openings.
“These initiatives have the full support of the Nebraska Board of Parole,” said Cotton. “This grant will allow the agency to fully implement and test these pilot programs. It will also provide the lead time needed to plan for future budget requests should evaluation of the programs show them to be successful.”
Plans are to launch the open structure CBI group program on April 1, 2020, in Lincoln and Omaha. If successful, it can be replicated in other locations in the state. The VRP aftercare program is planned to launch by summer 2020. If successful, this program may serve as a nationwide model for community supervision agencies across the county.
Parole Co-Hosts 35th Annual International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP) National Training & Performance Conference
September 23 – September 26, 2019
The Nebraska Board of Parole and Division of Parole Supervision co-hosted the IACTP conference along with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and Administrative Offices of Probation this past September. Denny Campbell, our Training and Staff Development Supervisor, led the implementation team for this conference along with staff from other agencies. Key members of the implementation team who assisted with planning and management of the conference include Andrea Degner, Tina Reil-Lux, and Jerid Wedige from the Administrative Offices of Probation; Christina Carter, Justin Rea, and Ken Sturdy from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services; and Joel Denney and Cynthia Stewart from the Division of Parole Supervision. The theme of this conference was “Trainers Plant the Seeds; Agencies Reap the Harvest – Employee Engagement, Staff Retention, Strong Leadership”. Audience members included members from each of the Nebraska agencies as well as trainers and staff from agencies across the country. The conference was attended by over 140 criminal justice professionals representing agencies from 22 states and Great Britain.
On Thursday, September 26th, Denny along with Jennifer Miller, Joel Denney, and Alexandra Adams presented a workshop entitled “Evaluating Our Growth: A Model of Cyclical Data, Assessment and Training”. This workshop summarized how parole has taken evidence-based practices and applied it to staff development and training. The presenters reviewed the model and how it provides for an integration between quality assurance and continuous quality improvement with both agency-wide and individualized training initiatives. Included in this workshop was a discussion of assessment data and tools used by our agency as well as lessons learned by members of the training team that received the 2017 APPA Presidential Award. Joel Denney, who served as on-site IT support for all of the conference, and Denny Campbell were instrumental in ensuring that the conference was a success for all those in attendance.
The organization Women on a Mission for Change held its 4th Annual Legacy Gala the evening of October 18, 2019, at the DC Centre Banquet Facility in Omaha, Nebraska. This event celebrated the legacies of women in the Omaha Metropolitan Area, specifically their individual excellence, levels of achievement, and their commitment to community. Chair of the Nebraska Board of Parole, Rosalyn Cotton, was one of several women honored during the Legacy Gala for her commitment to women and girls. Funds raised during the event support initiatives of the Women Influencing Girls (WIG) Mentoring Program which serves girls ages 14 to 17 in the community.
In September 2019, the Division of Parole Supervision implemented a new program, HeartMath, to promote emotional and physical wellbeing in the workplace through analyzing the rhythmic patterns of your heartbeat. This HeartMath system uses a censor as well as a mobile application to analyze heartrate variability, the time interval between continuous heartbeats. With this HeartMath sensor, along with the Inner Balance mobile application, individuals are able to visualize their current heartrate variability in real-time. For example, when an individual is under stress while participating in a HeartMath session, the heartrate variability is irregular, characterized by jagged peaks and valleys. Conversely, when an individual is coherent, or feeling positive emotions, heartrate variability is characterized by smooth harmonious waves. This heartrate variability plays an important role because the heart, much like the brain, sends signals to the rest of the body.
Ultimately, the goal of this project is to equip our teammates with skills and tools to reduce stress and manifest a workplace environment that promotes coherence, resilience, health, and positivity. Overall, our teammates have been highly receptive of this technology and eagerly look forward to their daily HeartMath sessions.
To learn more about the science behind HeartMath, please go to https://www.heartmath.com/science/.