Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Promising Practices

The Challenge Program (TCP)

Agency

Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS)

Brief Summary

As one of many strategies aimed at reducing the use of restrictive housing, NDCS has implemented the use of mission-specific housing. In September of 2017, NDCS launched The Challenge Program (TCP). TCP provides mission-specific housing—as a controlled, highly structured alternative to restrictive housing—for individuals who have demonstrated an institutional history of violent and/or Security Threat Group behavior. This includes individuals who have demonstrated serious violence in NDCS facilities, or individuals for whom significant intelligence exists to document that they have orchestrated violence while in NDCS custody.

The Goal

To provide a safe alternative to restrictive housing in a structured environment with an emphasis on non-clinical cognitive programming and behavior incentives to prepare individuals to successfully transition to the general population and/or the community.

The Process

Restrictive housing inmates who meet the designated criteria are assigned to TCP by the Longer-Term Restrictive Housing (LTRH) Central Office Multi-Disciplinary Review Team (CO MDRT). TCP is a three-phase program. Phase I begins in restrictive housing where individuals are expected to demonstrate appropriate institutional behavior and complete in-cell interactive journals to prepare for cognitive assessment and Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT).  Upon completion of Phase I requirements, individuals will be removed from LTRH by the CO MDRT, which will allow for their advancement to Phase II in a designated non-restrictive housing unit gallery. In this location, conditions of confinement are similar to those in the general population.  During Phase II, individuals are expected to demonstrate appropriate institutional behavior, complete in-cell interactive journals, and complete the Commitment to Change program. Upon completion of Phase II behavior and programming expectations, individuals advance to Phase III in a different designated non-restrictive housing unit gallery, where conditions of confinement are similar to the general population.  During Phase III, individuals are expected to demonstrate appropriate institutional behavior and complete the Thinking for Change and Getting It Right® programs (The Change Companies).  Upon completion of Phase III behavior and programming expectations, individuals are assigned to non-TCP general population housing appropriate to their custody classification and individual needs.

The Solution

TCP provides a safe alternative to restrictive housing and helps to reduce length of stay in restrictive housing for individuals who have demonstrated an institutional history of violence.

The Results

Like many new initiatives, implementation of TCP has not been without challenge.  The program was modified for a total of 45 participants that have completed the accelerated TCP. To date, time has not allowed for individuals to complete all three phases of the program. However, more than 40 individuals are currently assigned to TCP Phase I and 11 individuals have advanced to TCP Phase II. Once assigned to TCP, participants have the option to actively engage in the programming requirements. Participation rates have not yet met expectations, but it is believed that this will increase as individuals accept that this is their established pathway to less restrictive housing settings.

This Promising Practices section of the SAS Resource Center was developed as part of a collaborative effort with the Vera Institute of Justice, University of Michigan Law School, and Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. We are also deeply grateful to the many leaders across the country who created and implemented each of the reforms cited throughout this section for their efforts to reduce the use of restrictive housing in prisons and jails across the country.

Please note that Vera and our partners do not specifically endorse the practices and policies included in this section. The Promising Practices section features segregation reforms being implemented in prisons and jails around the country. Our goal is to serve as a resource to other jail and prison systems interested in implementing similar practices and policies by highlighting those jurisdictions that report successful reforms.