Behind the Scenes of Programming

Behind the Scenes of Programming

Reentry team helps prevent recidivism

    

Reentry specialists at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) are proud of the work they do every day. They describe their efforts as being the bridge to hope and a key resource for preparing men and women for life in the community.

“I enjoy assisting people to become more successful,” said Trevor Patterson, reentry specialist. “The success stories are all worth it.”

Reentry begins the day a person arrives at NDCS. Each person is encouraged to take advantage of programming opportunities, classes, events, activities – and to learn new job skills that will better prepare them for success upon release.

“I started out as an officer at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in 2001,” said Reentry Specialist Chris Jones. “I majored in psychology and social work. I promoted to corporal and case worker and then to the Community Correctional Center – Lincoln (CCC-L) work release and now, to reentry. I love connecting community providers with our population.”

Reentry specialists evaluate what each person needs to get back on their feet. They work with men and women to develop plans that will enable them to secure employment, obtain safe housing, establish bank accounts, secure identification documents and meet other life needs including mental health or addiction support resources.

“I started my career out at the Community Correctional Center – Lincoln as a case worker,” said Brianna Husmann, reentry specialist. “I just graduated college and was looking to get my foot in the door. I saw another reentry specialist working and was interested in what they were doing so I applied and joined this area of NDCS. I like seeing when the people we work with are able to complete programming and enhance their education here.”

“I enjoy making our incarcerated population feel more comfortable in the community,” added Reentry Specialist Abby Siebert. “If we never see that incarcerated person again, it means we were successful in helping them be successful.”

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Teacher says students are grateful for educational opportunities

      

A dedicated teacher who worked in the Nebraska public school system for 13 years, now finds himself heading to work at the Lincoln Correctional Center at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. Teacher Josh Murtaugh said he loves K-12 education, but was ready for a new professional challenge that served others. "It's way different than what people think," he said.

Murtaugh said he enjoys coming to work every day because he sees how hard his students work. "I find a lot of them didn't have a good experience in school. To change that experience and respond with positive, constructive feedback is an amazing opportunity."

Murtaugh works with other teachers to find new and exciting ways to help the people living at all 10 Nebraska facilities earn their high school degree or GED and take a variety of job skill-building trades through a variety of online classes. "I wasn't expecting how grateful they are for the educational opportunity they receive here," Murtaugh said. "Working here, I get to see the amazing changes you can have on an individual that can jumpstart a new period of success in their lives."

Ninety-three percent of people living in NDCS facilities will enter back into the community. The average length of stay for an individual is about three years. Achieving educational goals and developing new job skills is vital to each person's progress back in the community so they can find success.

Murtaugh just recently signed another contract to continue teaching students. "This facility is where these men live right now," he said. "What they do with their time here will change the outcome of their future. We're here to help with that."

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Teacher lands great career at NDCS by accident

Getting back into teaching was a big change for Zach Walsh after working in the business world for several years. But Walsh feels a stable career in education was the right choice for him. "My wife spotted this job. She asked me if I wanted to work in a prison. I said no, but I still applied."

A few weeks later Walsh found out he got the teaching job at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS). "My rationale was that it's real teaching experience I could use to get into the Nebraska school system," he said. "But I found out I love it."

Walsh said one of the best things about teaching in NDCS is the time he gets to learn about his students and discover strengths and weaknesses of each individual. This is something he missed while working in K-12 education before his career switch.

Walsh said his teaching schedule begins every morning with a block of preparation time. After that, he'll see students the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, he tends to administrative duties and then receives another group of students. "Days go fast," said Walsh.

"It's such a unique environment," Walsh continued. "I feel this is one area here where we have learning relationships. We are key in helping people living at correctional facilities to find out what they're really interested in doing after their time here."

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There are 150 different job classifications at NDCS. Below is an array of positions in Programming.

- Teacher

- Principal

- Administrative Assistant

- Recreation Manager

- Recreation Specialist

- Reentry Specialist

- Vocational and Life Skills Coordinator

- Religious Coordinator

- Librarian

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