This report provides a detailed analysis of client perceptions of services they received as part of the Vocational and Life Skills (VLS) first grant cycle. Approximately 2500 participants received services as part of the first grant cycle of the Life Skills Program created in 2014 by Nebraska Legislative Bill 907. VLS programming focused on reentry of individuals currently incarcerated, recently released from one of the ten Nebraska correctional facilities, or clients supervised in the community via probation or parole. VLS services included a range of job readiness, educational, and career trainings as well as and a number of mental health, therapeutic and substance treatment programs. In the first grant cycle, services were provided by eight organizations: Center for People in Need, Goodwill Industries, Mental Health Association of Nebraska, Metropolitan Community College, Prairie Gold Homes, Released and Restored, Inc., ResCare Workforce Services, and Western Alternative Corrections. As part of the evaluation of the VLS program, 27 clients were interviewed in 2016 to ascertain their general perceptions of the programming, assess changes in behavioral and life skills, and describe their general reentry experience. The interviewed participants included clients from each of the eight program sites and a mix of those preparing for release from a correction facility, under parole or other community supervision at the time of the interview, or those recently released from supervision after completing all required supervision conditions. This extensive qualitative data offers detailed information of client experiences and adds additional context to survey data previously collected on VLS Cycle 1 participants. 4 Analysis of interview data indicates that the majority of those receiving services found the programs beneficial for their reentry process. Important positive themes identified in the data included the merits of expressive and instrumental social supports by program staff, the value of job skills and educational trainings, and behavioral shifts and life course changes. Clients also presented a number of concerns that could negatively influence reentry outcomes. More than half of all participants believed that they faced blocked opportunities associated with their criminal past and 66% reported not feeling connected to a community. One participant described feeling like a “ghost” in the community.
Nebraska Center for Justice Research, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Kurtz, Don L.; Spohn, Ryan E.; and Peterson, Johanna C., "Nebraska Vocational and Life Skills Initiative Client Perceptions of Program Services and Ability to Reintegrate: A Qualitative Analysis of Grant Cycle 1 Participant Interviews" (2018). Reports. 105.