ReConnect, Inc. helps individuals lead productive lives – both inside and outside of prison

ReConnect, Inc. helps individuals lead productive lives – both inside and outside of prison


CONTACT Cara Wilwerding, Communications Manager

OFFICE 402-479-5712 |

Note: This is the second of an eight-part series about Vocational and Life Skills programs funded by LB907. Follow along to learn more about the programs’ goals, expectations and successes.

Nov. 21, 2017 (Lincoln, Neb.) – ReConnect, Inc., is a non-profit human service agency founded in 2011, and focuses on reentry for those currently and formerly incarcerated, in addition to keeping youth out of the criminal justice system. During their first year as a Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) grantee, ReConnect served over 600 VLS participants.

“Our main goal is to help our clients gain the skills needed to overcome barriers and gain the capacity to become productive and self-sufficient,” Executive Director LaVon Stennis-Williams said.

ReConnect offers four programs within NDCS facilities – “Final Number,” “Success Prep,” “Right Start” and “Pass it On.” “Final Number” is a two-week class that teaches individuals how to lead their prison sentences in productive ways – hopefully making this NDCS identification number their last.

“If we want to reduce recidivism, individuals need to leave with more skills than when they came in,” NDCS Reentry Administrator Grace Sankey-Berman said. “ReConnect really taps into that void right off the bat when they come into the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center (DEC). It gets them thinking about what to do so that they don’t come back to prison.”

“Success Prep” is a five-week life skills class designed to help incarcerated individuals start thinking about and preparing for reentry. “Right Start” is a career assessment and job readiness course that helps participants find stable and satisfying work despite a criminal history.

“Pass It On” was created to help change attitudes about prison. This program is aimed towards those with lengthy or life sentences – helping them to see prison as not a punishment, but as an opportunity for greater self-development. Ideally, incarcerated individuals who have gone through the program will pass what they learn to others as they enter prison.

“She (Stennis-Williams) wants people to understand that their lives do not stop while they’re in prison,” Sankey-Berman said. “‘Pass It On’ gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership.”

Stennis-Williams developed the concept for ReConnect, Inc., while she was serving time in federal prison. She knows what her clients have been through and strives to help them overcome the struggles that she faced as well.

“Each time each one of our clients achieves a goal, that’s a success for us too,” she said. “Our greatest success is being able to see the development and success that our clients make to overcome barriers.”

Outside of prison, one of ReConnect’s most prominent programs is ReConnect2Success – a pre- and post-release reentry planning program. The program places emphasis on employment preparation and retention skills while also helping clients develop comprehensive problem solving and life skills needed to be successful in the workplace, and in life. Their Triage Youth Program helps youth overcome risk factors that may lead into the criminal justice system. Family Matters is a support program offering advice and problem solving skills to strengthen relationships between parents and children.

“I remember a parent who brought his child in for the triage program,” Stennis-Williams said. “He heard about the adult program and shared his story about being formerly incarcerated and his child’s history with the juvenile system. The father enrolled in programming, got his GED and job training. He is now fully engaged in the community, he is a home owner and he has had this job for three years. His kid never went back into the system.”

This success story is only one of many that ReConnect influenced. Now, many of the organization’s former clients return as volunteers – continuing to pass on knowledge and compassion.

“They come in to give back or just to talk,” Stennis-Williams said. “It makes me feel good when I see a former client come in now – not needing our help but wanting to support us.”