Former Illinois prison director named new Nebraska Dept. of Correctional Services director
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Governor Jim Pillen announced Rob Jeffreys as the new Nebraska Department of Correctional Services director Monday afternoon.
Pillen and the new director were joined by Lt. Governor Joe Kelly and acting Director Diane Sabatka-Rine who took over as interim director after Scott Frakes resigned in the fall of 2022, a position he had held since 2015.
Seven people were interviewed for the position. “This has been a very thorough search, one that has taken an incredible amount of time. At the end of the day, Rob Jeffreys was clearly the standout candidate among the candidates who considered the role,” Pillen said.
Since 2019, Jeffreys led the Illinois correctional system that consisted of around 29,000 incarcerated individuals at 27 facilities across the state with a total of about 13,000 people a part of that team.
“While in Illinois, director Jeffreys has made strides in areas of agency, accreditation, re-entry initiatives, vocational and educational services, and led the department through many challenges that were brought on through COVID-19,” Pillen said.
Prior to Illinois, Jeffreys spent 24 years working at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections with a majority of those years spent in correctional management. Jeffreys also has facilities-based experience serving as a warden.
“I’m excited to get started, I wanna get out and see the facilities. I wanna get out and meet the staff. Wanna get out and see the population and then I wanna meet with everybody and talk about some of the great things we’re doing and the opportunities for improvement,” Jeffreys said.
Jeffreys said the top three challenges facing corrections in Nebraska is infrastructure, staffing and preparing people to be successful when they are released. Jeffreys said some facilities that have been built are well over 100 years old and have outlasted their point of relevancy.
“We wanna make sure that we have people (succeed) so they can go out and go back out into the community and be prospering citizens because that adds to public safety,” Jeffreys said. “If we can turn out a better product than when they came in to us then that improves to staff wellness, that includes to family lives, that includes the community, and public safety as well too.”
Jeffreys plans to address the shortage of staffing by continuing what Kelly and Sabatka-Rine have been working on, which is increasing employees’ pay. “I think that’s a good start and I think that’s just a pillar of the other things that need to be done,” Jeffreys said. “But I wanna be able to spend some time with the team and with the field to see what the issues currently are.”
Lt. Gov. Kelly said he was very impressed by Jeffreys’ prior experience. “In particular, his involvement in national organizations where they’re always talking about the best practices, about what’s working around the nation, about what we can try and change and do differently for better outcomes.”
Pillen said Jeffreys will receive a $210,000 salary while in the position.
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