State Corrections Director Scott Frakes says Defy Ventures became attractive for the state prison system for a number of reasons.
Defy runs a character development and job preparation program for inmates.
Frakes says he has been impressed by the program run by CEO Catherine Hoke.
“There was an energy behind this program that I’d never seen before,” Frakes tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Certainly, Catherine Hoke is a big part of that, but it isn’t just Catherine. It is all of her staff. It’s the whole culture that’s built around Defy Ventures. So that was a piece of it. The fact that there was community support willing to come together and find the funding to pay for the program; all I had to do was make sure there was a place to carry it out.”
A handful for donors have raised two-and-a-half million dollars to fund the program at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln and the Omaha Correctional Center for the remainder of this year and three years afterward.
Defy is a New York-based company that works in the New York and California state prison systems.
Frakes believes the program run by Defy will cut recidivism rates, but will also have an impact inside prison walls.
“It’s going to not only provide new opportunities for these men in terms of entrepreneurial skills, job skills, self-awareness, life skills, but it also is going to help change these prison cultures,” Frakes says. “My staff deserves to have safe places to work and one of the ways that we can do that is to build a culture where violence is not the answer.”
Frakes says his long-term goal he has for the program is to keep prison inmates from returning to prison after release. He also has short-term goals.
“I want to inspire hope for the men. I want to give them (the) tools that they can use again to communicate, act differently and I want to create a safer environment for everyone,” Frakes says.
Frakes says he has been impressed by the energy Defy brings to the prison, evidenced by the pep rally-style kickoff event at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. He also is impressed by its effectiveness.
“This a program that starts off with an event to make it clear to people that if they’re willing to invest the time and energy to change their lives, they can change their lives.”