Reentry framework for formerly incarcerated individuals approved

Lawmakers passed a measure April 11 that seeks to overhaul Nebraska’s approach to parole, probation and reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB631, sponsored by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, makes a number of changes to the state Board of Parole. Under the bill, board members are required to receive initial and ongoing training on ethics, cultural competency, implicit bias and the board’s powers and duties.

A board member will be considered “in neglect of duty” if they miss 12 full days of hearings in a calendar year unless the absence is due to circumstances beyond the member’s control. A board member found to be in neglect of duty will be removed from the board.

In addition, the bill prohibits denial of parole for a committed offender solely because the state Department of Correctional Services delayed or did not offer necessary programming due to operational issues, including staffing shortages, maintenance issues or lack of funding.

The measure incorporates LB348, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, which creates the Community Work Release and Reentry Centers Act. Among other provisions, the bill enables the Division of Parole Supervision and the state Department of Correctional Services to contract with private providers to establish work release and reentry centers at various locations throughout the state.

Responsibility for certain reentry programs and services is transferred from the department to the Board of Parole with the goal of providing work release opportunities, vocational training, education, programming and behavioral and mental health treatment prior to full parole.

The measure also creates the Reentry Continuity Advisory Board to identify areas for collaboration on reentry issues. Among other members, the advisory board will include representatives of the department and the Board of Parole, as well as a formerly incarcerated individual, a victims’ rights representative and individuals with expertise in public policy, mental and behavioral health and restorative justice.

The advisory board will assist in establishing and evaluating performance metrics for probation staff and provide an annual report detailing the outcomes of parole decisions, reentry efforts, recidivism rates and challenges encountered.

Among other provisions, LB631 also prohibits a state agency or political subdivision from excluding an individual from consideration for a program grant solely because he or she currently is or previously was on probation or parole.

Finally, the bill contains provisions of the following measures:
• LB334, introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, which creates minimum standards for reentry housing facilities throughout Nebraska;
• LB1126, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Carolyn Bosn, which creates a career readiness pilot program to assist justice-involved individuals in obtaining the National Career Readiness Certificate; and
• LB1145, also sponsored by Bosn, which transfers the Division of Parole Supervision to the state Department of Correctional Services.

Senators passed LB631 on a vote of 39-4.

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