Institute for Justice Research and Development Partner with Nebraska for Three-Year Reentry Support Initiative
The Institute for Justice Research and Development (IJRD) has partnered with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) and Wellbeing and Equity Innovations for a three-year initiative to provide reentry support services to all incarcerated individuals in Nebraska’s criminal justice settings, preparing to return home to the community. The initiative will utilize both staff and peer-led delivery of data-driven reentry support services.
“Reentry starts at intake and is the focus throughout incarceration,” said Dawn-Renee Smith, NDCS deputy director for programs. “As we infuse the principles of this initiative into our case management services and engage peers in the delivery, it will allow us to significantly expand reentry support and make those services even more meaningful for those who participate.”
Reentry programs are designed to help incarcerated individuals prepare for their release into the community and help them stabilize in the community once they return home. On a national level, reentry services are usually facilitated by professional staff.
“Extensive research on peer-delivered programming has been conducted in medical, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment settings. Data shows that when peers are involved, outcomes for patients substantially improve,” said Carrie Pettus, founding executive director of IJRD and associate professor at the College of Social Work.
NDCS has embraced the delivery of peer-led services and programs. The partnership with IJRD supports the expansion of this model by translating the 5-Key Model for Reentry – a signature well-being-oriented behavioral health reentry program developed by IJRD researchers, service providers in the community, and individuals with incarceration histories – for peer-delivery.
“Around the country, reentry service delivery is hampered by the sheer volume of incarcerated individuals compared to the number of reentry specialists available to serve them,” explained Dr. Pettus. “But this innovative model supports delivery by peer support specialists, in a way that dramatically improves our ability to provide support to individuals as they leave incarceration and return home.”
Dr. Pettus and her team at IJRD have already implemented and tested the 5-Key model in seven states with thousands of participants, both during incarceration and after individuals transition home to the community. Early findings on the model indicate participants experience an increase in overall well-being and a reduced rate of reincarceration 8 to 15 months after release. Although participants’ involvement in the program varied, data suggest that individuals who received more 5-Key Model programming reported higher levels of employment, overall well-being and less substance use (among those who reported any substance use) 15 months after release.
The three-year initiative in Nebraska is funded through a $900,000 grant. The initiative began with an introduction of the program to correctional staff members. Next, the project team will translate the evidence-driven 5-Key Model program to be jointly delivered throughout Nebraska’s correctional institutions by peers and professionals. The hope is that the expansion of service delivery will help individuals thrive after release from incarceration in Nebraska and generate further evidence and understanding of the 5-Key model about what works best to support individuals as they return to their communities across the nation.