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Midlands Voices: New prison facility needed to help ensure healthy change options for inmates

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A volunteer shakes hands with an inmate during a character development program at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

The image Randy Essex paints of the Nebraska State Penitentiary decades ago, speaks significantly to the need for a new prison facility. As noted in “A family story about addiction, prison and why reform matters” published Feb. 8, 2022, clinical treatment, education and other opportunities all contribute to better outcomes for those who are incarcerated.

Those outcomes are significantly enhanced when provided in the proper environment. The penitentiary was never built for that. It is a facility that has made do with what was available and has suffered from a lack of adequate classrooms, dayrooms, event and activity space.

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Scott Frakes

Since I became director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services in 2015, we have made significant progress in providing programs that set up incarcerated individuals to succeed when they return to the community. I recently gave a presentation to the Reentry Alliance of Nebraska in which I discussed how a positive setting can influence outcomes and contribute to the well-being of those who are incarcerated. A new, modern, well-designed, technologically advanced facility will do just that, while also providing the safety and security that is paramount.

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Identifying clinical needs begins soon after entry to NDCS. Getting someone into the necessary treatment program prior to parole or release is a priority. As of November 2021, 85% of the parole eligible population had completed or were enrolled in a recommended clinical program. Those remaining were either offered the opportunity and refused, failed to complete, or engaged in behavior that impeded their ability to be accepted into or remain in treatment.

This speaks to the challenges faced by many who are incarcerated. Addressing issues like substance use or illegal sexual behavior is never one and done. It is a continuum of stops and starts, successes and failures that last the entirety of someone’s life. The temptation to revert to old habits is ever present. Treatment is a path to recovery. There is no cure.

In correctional settings, clinical treatment provides a foothold. It lays the groundwork for what needs to continue in the community. Giving individuals a proper environment for initiating that change is the best thing that we can do. The mission of NDCS is: Keep people safe. Rehabilitation is an important part of that mission.

Getting there will be all the more difficult, unless we invest in a facility where healthy change can happen. Otherwise, we are selling ourselves short, including the more than 2,500 men and women who discharge annually from NDCS.

Midlands Voices January 2022

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Darryl Brown Jr. writes: "Nuance belongs in the conversation around abortion; our faith does not always require an 'either/or' mentality."

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Gov. Pete Ricketts writes: "State law declares 'the will of the people of the State of Nebraska and the members of the Legislature to provide protection for the life of the unborn child whenever possible."

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Gwenn Aspen writes: Will a candidate be a leader who will stand with voters, or will they stand with authoritarians? 

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David G. Brown writes: "The City of Omaha has taken a giant step forward in providing new dynamic infrastructure that will bring more people, companies and jobs to the very heart of our community."

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A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be felt throughout the world, directly threatening Poland and the Baltic States and unsettling global economies.

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Ron Jensen writes: "I have no doubt that the political parties would like to have more to say about who serves in our Legislature, as well as what they do when they get there. But Nebraskans have only to look at the U.S. Congress to understand how well that would serve the public interest."

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Rebecca Fahrlander writes: "Chain letters, like today's social media chain posts, usually involved some concern or superstition around fate, bad fortune, illness, etc. Breaking the chain could bring bad luck. They were fake before we had fake news."

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Andi Curry Grubb writes: "Those who strongly oppose abortion have spread misinformation, creating harmful stigma and shaming people who have had abortions into silence. This has left a vacuum that the vocal minority has used to push its narrow, ideological agenda against abortion to the tipping point."

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Polling shows strong support for conservation easements in Nebraska. 

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State. Sen. Steve Lathrop writes that dealing with incarceration growth "will take a new approach to criminal justice using strategies that can actually reduce recidivism, protect public safety and rein in prison growth."

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Nationally, other states are doing a better job of protecting their children than Nebraskans are. This must change.

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he mandate enacted by Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse is an absolutely necessary measure; however, it is important to emphasize that masks are only one part of the solution.

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State Sen. Tom Brewer and John R. Lott Jr. write: "Much will remain unchanged with constitutional carry. Businesses and private property owners still have the right to exclude guns from their premises. Prohibitions remain in sensitive places, and laws about gun misuse are unchanged. Nebraskans must still be able to legally own a gun to carry it."

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"Colorado’s plans to siphon off water from the South Platte River would decrease agricultural water supplies and raise pumping costs for our residents," Gov. Pete Ricketts writes.

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State Sen. John McCollister writes: "Republican voters have been so pumped full of lies from conservative talk radio, Fox News and conspiracy outlets like OANN, that any law is then seen as some draconian overreach of government power."

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The RNC could act as a barrier to the Cult of Trump and set the party on a sane and responsible course. But it hasn’t, and probably won’t.

But it has happened before. 

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Vaccines continue to remain the No. 1 preventative measure to combat COVID. We need every eligible Nebraskan to get fully vaccinated and boosted to protect each other.

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Madison Kinkaid writes: "As the world continues to warm, we look to new energy sources to fuel our needs."

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Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold writes: "Based on recent GCHS success in leveraging investments to receive competitive grants and contracts, an independent outside economic impact projection shows that the state’s one-time investment would create 220 high-wage, high-skill, high-demand jobs statewide."

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While the role of Omaha may have been brief, its status as a gateway to the west and pivotal role in providing the logistical support made its contribution critical to the success of the hunt.

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State Sen. Mike Flood says he hopes to advance further pro-life legislation during the 2022 legislative session.

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Pat Loontjer writes: "The economic impact and jobs casinos claim are not in addition to existing local economic activity but in place of it. Gambling dollars do not drop from the sky. They come from local gamblers whose spending patterns change when slot machines move in, at the expense of local business receipts."

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The last two years have taught us that we don’t have the luxury of working in silos any longer. 

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Kenneth Keith writes: "We once again have the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to come together in the face of adversity."

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Gov. Pete Ricketts: "On behalf of all Nebraskans, thank you to members of the Nebraska National Guard for your dedicated service to our state."

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Today, our state and our nation both face pressing needs for which the University of Nebraska at Omaha is in a strategic position to provide solutions.

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State Sen. Megan Hunt plans to introduce legislation removing Nebraska's legal hurdles to abortion. 

Scott R. Frakes is the director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

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