(The Center Square) – Prisoners in Nebraska who are about to complete their sentence will be allowed to purchase cell phones under a new policy designed to help them find jobs.
The policy applies to inmates who have jobs outside of prisons as part of a work release program. Prisoners will need to check the phones in the lockers after returning to a prison facility and also provide their phone passwords to prison staff.
The new policy makes sense, said Jim Jones, founder and executive director of a nonprofit, Community Justice Center, which helps Nebraska inmates after release from prison.
“If you work in the community, having cell phones so that potential employers can call them back makes it a bit easier,” Jones told The Center Square. “A cell phone and communication are a vital part of this environment.”
Inmates often find ways to have cell phones anyway, said Jones, who himself served time for theft.
“This new policy brings it all out instead of forcing them to be sneaky and deceptive,” Jones said.
Finding a job after leaving prison is a critical factor in the success of former inmates, Jones said.
“Long-term success is having a paid job, earning a living wage so that you can pay your bills and meet your basic needs,” he said.
When Jones was in prison, cell phones were not widely used. He was able to find a job in the dishwasher immediately after his release and had the support of his wife.
With the current job market, newly released inmates can easily find employment, Jones said.
“Some people who never accepted criminals are now accepting them because they really need people,” he said. “It might not be a job you like; you may have to work odd hours ,. The guys who have problems are the ones who try to be selective.
Finding housing is more difficult for inmates than finding a job, Jones said.