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Report Finds Social Support Helps Inmate Rehabilitation

A new report on a Nebraska inmate rehabilitation program found that social support is more important in leading to a crime-free life than programs focused on changing behavior, News From the States reports. Twenty-one former inmates were interviewed by researchers from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to determine what’s working and what isn’t in the state’s Vocational and Life Skills (VLS) Program. The program was created as part of a 2014 prison reform effort by the state legislature. It funds a variety of programs to prepare inmates for jobs as carpenters, welders, drywallers and other trades, and helps them overcome hurdles to living crime-free lives.

Michael Campagna, a co-author of the study, said that social support from those teaching the trades and re-entry skills was cited by many former inmates as important in giving them optimism and motivation to leave behind lives of crime. “They’re the first people, in years who have treated them like real human beings,” Campagna said of the program providers. “(Inmates) appreciate that and want more of that.” This sort of rehabilitation work is not easy. Most of the inmates involved in the program have never held a real job and, the researchers found, had begun committing crimes, doing drugs and joining gangs as teenagers. There are barriers to becoming crime-free, such as finding “safe” housing, resisting temptation to return to old habits and friends, finding affordable mental health counseling and overcoming employers’ reluctance to hire former inmates.


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