Doug Koebernick knew he was taking on a big job when he accepted the newly created position of inspector general for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), but says he now knows its full scope.
Koebernick was a legislative aide who helped with prison reform before beginning his new role in September 2015.
“The problems took place over a long period of time and the Department is faced with the challenge of addressing those and it’s not going to happen overnight or anything like that,” Koebernick says. “(Administrators) know that and the legislature knows that now.”
Koebernick says he met with senators who led the prison reform effort on what their goals are for the Department. That meeting resulted in a list of 12 items for Koebernick to examine. And a survey of NDCS employees last fall resulted in approximately 700 responses.
“I received a lot of really good feedback from them,” Koebernick says. “Most of the questions had the ability for them to select ‘other’ and then type in whatever they wanted – it was all an online survey – and that all came back to me, so I could read all their ‘other’ comments, and those were incredibly helpful.”
One issue that stuck out to him is the problem of recruiting and retaining staff.
Koebernick says NDCS needs to hire more officers as well as nurses and behavioral health staff, but not every facility has a shortage.
“There are so many pieces of the puzzle. Each facility is different. That’s probably one of the biggest things that I’ve learned, and that was evident in my survey results,” Koebernick says. “Every facility has its own set of challenges. Every facility has their things that they’re doing really well.”
He says administrators are looking at whether existing resources can be shifted around to help meet current needs.
The inspector general will issue the first, annual report on the Department of Correctional Services in September.