The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) became a self-operating school district in January 2008 offering educational services to meet individual inmate’s needs. The programs include a high school accredited through the Nebraska Department of Education, Adult Basic and Secondary Education (ABE/ASE) including literacy education and General Equivalency Diploma testing to earn a Nebraska High School Diploma, English as a Second Language (ESL), life skills courses, parenting courses, pre-vocational and vocational programming, and correspondence study. Courses are presented in individualized or group format depending upon the need of the inmate student and course content. Inmates are encouraged to pursue educational release when they reach Community Corrections status. Teachers and the principal are all certified through the State of Nebraska; 47% of the teachers hold a master’s or higher degree.
Upon initial entry at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln or York and upon entry to the Work Ethic Camp (WEC) in McCook or the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility (NCYF) in Omaha, all inmates complete personal data regarding their education and complete the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) or the BEST Plus test for ESL students. For inmates who have graduated from high school or have a GED/Nebraska High School Diploma and who give NDCS permission to verify the diploma, the verification process is begun in each facility. Based on the TABE results, students are placed in coursework that meets their needs. At NCYF students are placed in either the high school or ABE/ASE program based upon their age, length of sentence, evaluation of their high school transcripts, and TABE test scores. At all facilities if a student has a diploma but does not score well on the TABE, that student may be placed in literacy programming or, if college is a goal, in courses to better prepare the student for college and college entrance testing. The ABE/ASE program offers coursework in reading, science, social studies, writing (language), and math. Special Education professionals assist students with special learning needs.
Life Skills courses included Relationships, How to Find and Keep a Job, Introduction to Computers, Keyboarding, Money Smart, and other related topics. These courses are taught by the education staff. Education staff and volunteers teach the Inside Out Dads Curriculum for the men. Parenting courses for the women are taught by trained parenting professionals.
The Pro-Start Food Service program will be offered in several facilities. Food service personnel who are certified vocational instructors will teach these programs. Upon completion of each year of the two year program, inmates will receive national certification for that year of training.
The Cabling Program is taught by a staff member trained in this venue. The program is available at the Community Correctional Center – Lincoln for inmates who have a diploma and meet criteria for this program. Students receive industry certified training and then practice those skills doing jobs for the State.
The Welding Program at WEC is run in conjunction with Valmont Industries and the community college. Students who complete this program can work in industries where welding is needed.
Inmates who have verified diplomas may participate in correspondence study with accredited post secondary facilities. Inmates are responsible for enrolling and paying all fees for such study. Education staff monitor progress and proctor tests.
The Educational Release Program allows inmates the opportunity to participate in education not available within the confines of the secure institutions. Eligible inmates may enroll in community colleges, technical schools, and four year colleges and universities. Inmates must pay for this education while also paying expenses related to living at Community Corrections where they are housed.