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Ebonie Epinger

improving the criminal justice system

Developing Safer Communities with Smarter Criminal Justice Research

April 2019

In Nebraska, past criminal offenders will be arrested again. That recidivism rate (percentage of offenders) is putting a strain on county and state corrections facilities. To make the situation more complicated, prisons are located on the eastern side of Nebraska, leaving the job of processing offenders in the rest of the state to county jails.

Ebonie Epinger researching at her desk
Epinger at her workspace in UNO’s CPACS Building.

So how can a state reduce reoffending, distribute resources more effectively, and support safer communities? Ebonie Epinger, a doctoral student, and other researchers at the University of Nebraska at Omaha think the answer involves taking a deeper look at Nebraska jails.

Epinger and her University of Nebraska at Omaha team work with local corrections facilities to investigate patterns that lead to recidivism, particularly for high-risk populations. Their work is especially valuable considering the bulk of criminal justice research is focused on prisons; not jails. And jails in Nebraska process more individuals than prisons.

“I hope this research can help us find great and effective case management to reduce recidivism that can be applied not only to the state of Nebraska, but can be transmitted to any other jail population,” she said.

“In Nebraska, one out of every four past criminal offenders will be arrested again.”

Epinger isn’t just adding to existing research in this area — her work will help ensure inmates have the tools they need to succeed upon release. Only then can they re-enter society as productive members of the community.

And she’s at just the right place to undertake her impactful research. The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (SCCJ) is home to the country’s No. 1 online criminology and criminal justice graduate program, ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Most of the program’s students are current law enforcement or corrections professionals. SCCJ has developed a reputation for excellence in engaged education and research like Epinger’s.

With a strong university system behind her and her peers, Epinger isn’t only benefitting the criminal justice world — she’s making an impact on the state as a whole.

Editors Note: Ebonie graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2022. She now serves as Research Program Coordinator at the Center for °¬żÉÖ±˛Ą Research and Development in Champaign, IL.

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