Nebraska Hosts Regional Meeting for Probation and Parole

Nebraska Hosts Regional Meeting for Probation and Parole

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) held its 2023 Region IV Winter Regional Training Institute in Omaha on February 5-7, 2023, with over 330 individuals from across Region IV attending. Content included topics relevant to probation, parole, the judiciary, and other facets of community corrections. APPA regularly sponsors Institutes to bring together probation and parole employees with researchers, public policy advocates, and other community corrections professionals. Region IV consists of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The conference held over 44 presentations amongst five plenary sessions, with topics ranging from emerging adults, juvenile justice, resiliency, and racial equity. The overall themes are geared towards strengthening the efficacy of community corrections using evidence-informed strategies and research.

Several Judicial Branch staff lead presentations on developments in the field. Some of the topics by Judicial Branch staff included: Erin Curran, Juvenile Behavioral Health Specialist, and Lindsay Meyer, Juvenile Justice Program Specialist, who collaborated with Dr. Kate Speck from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln to hold the seminar “Addressing Suicide Risk Communication.” Marc Kometscher, Alternatives to Incarceration Specialist, and Eric Maly, Director of Adult Field Services, held the workshop “Nonverbal Communication and Safety.”

Maly later reflected, “[As] mentioned in the closing plenary, it is paramount that we surround ourselves with learners rather than just ‘knowers.’ While participating in the workshop on emerging adults, it was clear that APPA fosters a growth mindset in both participants and presenters. The conference was a wonderful opportunity to network and share best practices in our ever-changing field.”

One of the most powerful events was the plenary “Racial Justice Town hall - I Am a Man: The Story of Chief Standing Bear and his Lasting Impact on U.S. Civil Rights.” This panel saw District 4A Probation Chief Damon Strong exchange ideas with Nebraska Senator Justin Wayne, as well as Nebraska Federal Public Defender Yvonne Sosa, APPA Tribal Grants Manager Mark Dyea, and esteemed professor emeritus and author Joe Starita from the University of Nebraska, whose novel on the Native American leader will be adapted into a film later this year.

Uniquely positioned to be able to facilitate this coordination of organizations were Jeanne Brandner, Nebraska’s APPA State Rep and Deputy Administrator for Juvenile Services, and Deputy Administrator of Operations, Gene Cotter, who is the APPA Region IV representative to the Board of Directors who teamed up to serve on the planning board for the Institute. Their dedication to the elevation of Branch staff provided a chance to make sure these community corrections professionals could interact with colleagues from all across the country.

After the event, Cotter spoke on the importance of the Judicial Branch’s involvement: “Because of the ongoing support of the Nebraska Supreme Court and the trial courts across the state, Nebraska probation has become a nationally recognized leader in the field of community corrections. As the Chief Justice regularly says, ‘Nebraska Probation is community corrections defined!’ Hosting a national conference for APPA exemplifies the leadership role Nebraska continues to play in community corrections and the important role we play in reducing recidivism, empowering individuals to make positive changes, and enhancing community safety.”

Photos:  (top) Deb Minardi, (middle) Joe Starita, (bottom) Aaron Davis