LINCOLN — A probation official has been named to oversee Nebraska's $14.5 million initiative to reshape the juvenile justice system.
Corey Steel was promoted this week to deputy administrator for juvenile services for the Office of Probation Administration. Steel, 38, of Hickman, Neb., had previously been the juvenile justice specialist for the office.
Steel, who started in 1998 as a probation officer, supervised a pilot program for the past three years in which the probation office managed the behavioral treatment of juvenile offenders in Omaha, North Platte and Scottsbluff.
The program matched services with youthful offenders, keeping 82 percent of juveniles in their homes rather than placing them in more expensive local detention centers or state institutions in Kearney and Geneva.
The pilot program provided a blueprint for overhauling juvenile justice statewide. State lawmakers made reform legislation one of their priorities during the session that ended last month.
Critics said Nebraska's former system relied too heavily on detention, which cost more for less-effective outcomes. A recent survey found Nebraska has the third-highest incarceration rate for juvenile offenders.
Under the pilot program, about eight out of 10 youths were able to receive treatment while remaining at home. Such treatment often involves the juvenile's family members.
State and local detention centers will remain open for juveniles who commit the most violent crimes.
Officials are working to transfer juvenile treatment from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to the probation office. Starting on Monday, all juveniles who enter the system will be assigned a probation officer, who will manage cases and make sure juveniles receive services.