Corrections ends Inmate driver program - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Corrections ends Inmate driver program

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By: Jenn Schanz

35–year–old inmate Jeremy Dobbe hit Joyce Meeks's car while driving a state van used to transport inmates to and from their work release.

Since then, the program has come under scrutiny.

Family and friends of Meeks began to ask why an inmate, with a history of reckless driving and two DUI charges, was behind the wheel.

"If we had any thoughts that something like this could happen, we would have changed that the moment, the second that we came to that awareness," says Director of Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Robert P. Houston.

Corrections officials say inmates are eligible to be drivers based on their driving record, chemical abuse and sentence.

They also require a valid license and must submit to a weekly drug test.

The Inmate Van Driver Program was suspended on June 28th for review.

It's now gone.

But corrections officials say eliminating the program won't take away from the rehabilitating process.

"Re-entry is a key element to public safety as the majority of the inmates will return to their communities within 3 years of admission. Discontinuing the Inmate Van Driver Program will have no adverse effect on re–entry."

Since 2009, there have been fifteen other accidents reported involving inmate driven vans, but the vast majority of those resulted in no injuries.

"Our department's low recidivism rate and millions of safe miles driven by the inmates does not stop bad things from happening," says Houston.

With the program gone, state employees will be responsible for driving inmates to and from work release.

Officials say this will cost around $320,000 a year.

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