Behind the Scenes of Criminal Justice

Behind the Scenes of Criminal Justice

Corporal finds leadership opportunities at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

Working in criminal justice with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) is an exciting and unique career opportunity. People who work for the agency describe their experience as being part of a big family.

Corporal McKen is a sergeant in the Nebraska National Guard, who brings a diverse skill set to his position at the Omaha Correctional Center (OCC).

 "My favorite place to work is lead yard corporal," he said. "I enjoy working as a team and I enjoy being tested and challenged in many different ways, both mentally and physically."

Before beginning his career at NDCS, McKen was a store coordinator. He knew he wanted more than just a job. He wanted something more fulfilling.

“I applied to NDCS because I needed a career. I want to be somebody.”

Shortly after working for NDCS, McKen was promoted from officer to corporal – a decision that was based on his work ethic and leadership.

"Being firm, fair and consistent has helped me be successful, and it will shape a person's career in this field.”

McKen believes his honesty and the leadership skills he has acquired through the years at NDCS have also been part of his success.

"Corrections has made me a very strong person."

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From limousines to criminal justice, one corporal never looks back

Nearly 12 years ago, Corporal Stark turned in one set of keys for another. Currently the tool control corporal at the Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC), Stark says he has never looked back since his days as a limousine driver.

Stark originally made the move from the limousine business to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) for the good health benefits and full-time pay. He said he was always interested in criminal justice, having majored in it while at college. More than a decade later, he said he still likes his career choice.

Stark started out as an officer and then promoted to corporal. He is now in charge of monitoring all tools across LCC. “I keep track of and maintain inventory for every part of the facility.”

The position has been a good fit for him.

“No matter what the position, there is always something more to learn. Every day is different. I'm in a new area focusing on finding tools and keeping people safe."

 

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Unit Caseworker feels her work makes a difference to incarcerated men and women​

Unit Caseworker Sara Scdoris began her career with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) seven years ago at the Nebraska State Penitentiary as a caseworker. Scdoris has a degree in criminal justice and wanted to pursue work in that field, which led her to NDCS. After one year at the penitentiary, she moved over to the Community Corrections Center – Lincoln.

“Everything you do will affect someone else,” said Scdoris. She advises other staff to be patient, learn how to listen and show respect.

Scdoris’ favorite thing about her job is that she enjoys all the different staff she gets to work with each day. She especially enjoys being classified in a relief caseworker position because it gives her a chance to move around and do different tasks. Scdoris explained that she feels like she gets to help the incarcerated population in little bits each day by going that extra mile helping with the small things and doing tasks in a timely manner.

 

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Detail Corporal plans to retire at NDCS

Detail Corporal Joshua Decker

Family means different things to different people. To Detail Corporal Joshua Decker, corrections is a big part of his own family. “It doesn’t matter if you work in security, the kitchen, maintenance, canteen or anywhere else in the facility. We all work together to keep fellow Nebraskans safe.”

Before stepping into his career at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), Decker worked at Jiffy Lube. He has always had a knack for fixing things. Once he got his foot in the door as an officer, Decker then made the move to detail corporal. “I was attracted to the benefits and was willing to try something new. It’s been great. I believe the NDCS is moving in a positive direction. I plan to retire here.”

With 13 years of experience, Decker still finds his job fulfilling and engaging. “Every day is a challenge at the Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC) Farm Shop. The job at times can be very dangerous. But the rewards for changing an incarcerated individual’s life far exceed any danger I have encountered throughout my career.”

A typical day for the detail corporal begins as he takes a crew of incarcerated men to collect and handle the recycling needs at LCC and the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center (DEC) next door. “I enjoy teaching inmates new skills in the work force and being a positive role model for them and new staff too,” said Decker.

For the rest of the day, he focuses on a variety of work orders and preventative maintenance to keep the facilities running smoothly. During the winter, he also focuses on snow removal to make sure teammates and visitors can get to the buildings safely.

Decker noted that the ability to help men at LCC improve their lives motivates him to keep working there. “We are trained to handle a variety of situations and people, including a large range of mental health challenges. This is just another reason I’ve come back to work at LCC every day for the last 13 years. We are doing good.”

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Clinic Corporal gives back through positive communication with incarcerated individuals

Clinic Corporal Nate AdamsStarting a new job can be exciting. But, it can also be a bit overwhelming as you get adjusted to new rules, policies, leadership and a new culture. For Clinic Corporal Nate Adams, he remembers how it felt to be ‘the new guy’ and having to get adjusted to the routine, fellow teammates and how to communicate with members of the incarcerated population. “There were a lot of different people to figure out.”

Four years later, Adams is still very happy going to work as he continues his career development at the Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC). “Overall, I love the job. I see myself here.”

Before joining the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), Adams installed office furniture. He decided to look for new career opportunities, because there was no way to move up at his former place of employment. “Growing up, I always wanted to be in the criminal justice field. I was referred by a teammate who worked at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. I wanted to be a part of this team because I truly wanted to make a difference in inmates’ lives. I want to keep showing them the community cares about our incarcerated population and wants them to succeed.”

Adams says every day is different as the clinic corporal. He maintains safety and security inside the LCC medical clinic, which includes doing routine searches on individuals entering and leaving the clinic and monitoring behavior while people are being treated. Adams also assists in communicating information between security, medical and mental health so all departments work together seamlessly. “The doctor sets the schedule every day. I’m there to make sure everything runs smoothly and is safe and secure for every individual who walks through the door. I assist with security for when our medical team conducts labs, diabetic care and handles medication distribution. I’m a part of security when the clinic holds flu vaccinations every fall and winter, and I make sure patients are in and out of the clinic at appropriate times throughout the day.”

Adams feels strongly about his job and what it represents. He noted he has always wanted a job that challenged him, helped advance his career and gave back. Adams believes he’s found all of this at NDCS. “Being a corrections corporal can sometimes be viewed negatively in the eyes of an incarcerated individual and even to some people in the community. I truly want to be the bridge to that gap. I enjoy being the positive change for the men living at LCC so they can make the positive change in their own lives too.”

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There are more than 150 job classifications at NDCS. Criminal Justice positions include:

- Officer

- Corporal

- Drug Detection Canine Handler

- Sergeant

- Lieutenant

- Captain

- Major

- Associate Warden

- Deputy Warden

- Warden

- Investigator

- Unit Caseworker

- Unit Case Manager

- Unit Manager

- Unit Administrator

- Training Specialist

- Social Work Director

- Behavioral Health Assistant Administrator

- Certified Master Social Work Supervisor

- Certified Master Social Worker-

- Clinical Program Manager

*Paid Officer Internships Available*

*Unpaid Social Work Internships Available*

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