Members of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 27 on a bill that would establish a uniform correctional reentry program for use throughout the state.
LB286, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, would create a Coordinated Reentry Council to establish a statewide plan for people upon release from a correctional facility, based on national best practices.
The council would meet at least three times a year and make policy recommendations to the governor and Legislature.
McCollister cited ongoing work by the Sherwood Foundation, in conjunction with various stakeholders, to identify a number of challenges facing the state.
“If the foundation’s efforts can be combined with the provisions in LB286, Nebraska would be able to establish a comprehensive and successful reentry program,” he said.
Membership on the council would include:
• the director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services;
• the chairperson of the Board of Parole;
• the director of supervision and services of the Division of Parole Supervision;
• the director of behavioral health of the state Department of Health and Human Services; and
• the executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
The governor would appoint eight additional members—subject to legislative approval—to include an executive director of a state community college association, a business owner who employs former inmates, two former inmates of a state correctional facility, a mental health and substance abuse professional, a social worker, a criminal justice researcher from a Nebraska university or college and one full-time law enforcement officer or employee.
The state probation administrator, two members of the Legislature and two judges appointed by the chief justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court would serve as nonvoting members.
Each member would serve an initial term of three years.
Doug Koebernick, inspector general of the Nebraska correctional system, testified in support of the bill. Work has been done to reform the state’s current reentry procedures, he said, but more formal oversight is needed.
“While there are efforts going on by various parties, it’s actually a disjointed effort that would benefit from a long-term strategic plan or vision,” Koebernick said.
Opposing the bill was Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. The department already has two separate committees tasked with the duties outlined in LB286, he said, and creating a new council would be redundant.
“While I recognize that this particular group would focus on reentry, the problem with creating multiple committees to address similar issues is that ideas presented by each group must be reconciled,” Frakes said.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.