​NDCS announces new cycle of VLS grantees

​NDCS announces new cycle of VLS grantees


CONTACT Laura Strimple, Chief of Staff

OFFICE 402-479-5713 | laura.strimple@nebraska.gov


NDCS announces new cycle of VLS grantees


July 1, 2020 (Lincoln, Neb.) – A program that provides men and women with employment and educational opportunities, skills training, job seeking, housing and other key resources is entering its fourth grant cycle through the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS). Since 2015, NDCS has partnered with community providers to facilitate a variety of reentry services through the Vocational and Life Skills (VLS) Program. The eight newly announced grantees and the amounts of their annual awards are:

Organization Annual Amount Awarded
Associated Builders & Contractors $393,125.00
Center for People in Need $595,000.00
Metropolitan Community College $563,500.00
Mental Health Association of Nebraska $595,000.00
ReConnect, Inc. $257,545.00
RISE $250,000.00
Western Alternative Corrections, Inc. – Bristol Station $730,000.00
York College $50,830.00

“The VLS program has allowed NDCS to provide services both inside and outside of prison – services that we could not provide without the innovative and dedicated work of our grant partners,” said Dawn-Renee Smith, deputy director for programs. “The eight grantees selected for the new cycle are very experienced working with reentrants and helping them create a pathway to success. Participants comment often on the changes they have experienced as a result of these programs and the services they provide.”

Each year, NDCS grants $3.5 million to provide community-based opportunities for people who are in prison, discharged from prison, or serving a period of supervision on parole or probation. Funding for the VLS program originates from LB 907, passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2014, with the intent of addressing barriers to successful reentry and reducing recidivism.

This investment allows NDCS to work with a diverse group of service providers and community colleges, to provide vocational and life skills training as well as services like housing, medical and mental health, community support, transportation and more. Services offered through VLS are available at no cost to participants. Participants can access services for up to 18 months after release.

Programs are delivered in traditional classroom settings and paper distance learning. In addition to utilizing classrooms in the facilities, individuals in work release centers are transported on-site to community-based programs. During the new grant cycle, facilitators hope to introduce virtual learning, which will allow more people greater access, even in remote areas.

“NDCS is excited to continue this collaborative effort to address barriers to successful reentry and provide support for people to access meaningful employment, so they can provide for themselves and their families, participate in their communities, contribute to the tax base and not return to prison,” said Smith.

The fourth grant cycle will run a total of three years. Previous grant cycles were two years with the exception of the first grant cycle, which was 18 months.  The current grant cycle (2020-2023) will last three years in order to align with the State of Nebraska Biennium Budget funding process. Starting July 1, 2020, grants will be awarded for one year, through June 30, 2021. After that, funding will be renewed for the following two years, with no new applications required.

NDCS works with the Nebraska Center for Justice Research (NCJR) at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) to ensure all of the VLS programs address the needs of participants and deliver the desired outcomes. Since its implementation in 2015, the VLS program has served approximately 9,862 individuals.