The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has officially terminated the Inmate Van Driver program.
Department Director Robert Houston announced the decision at a news conference on Friday, saying the termination of the program would be effective immediately. The program was suspended on June 28 following a fatal accident that occurred between a state vehicle being driven by an inmate from the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln and a minivan.
According to the Department of Correctional Services, 35-year-old Jeremy Dobbe was assigned to drive inmates to and from work details out of the corrections facility. It was while on his way to pick up other inmates around 10:30 p.m. on June 25 that Dobbe's speeding van struck a minivan nearly head-on killing the driver, 47-year-old Joyce Meeks.
Houston says he was out of the country at the time of the accident, and since coming home on the 3rd has met with his staff concerning the continuance of the program. He said, "Upon my return and consultation with my staff, I have determined that we will no longer sustain the Inmate Van Driver Program. Inmates who are assigned to work detail jobs will be transported by department staff."
While more changes to the work detail program could be forthcoming, those details could take weeks to be complete.
Following the accident many Nebraskans were questioning why someone with previous driving convictions was allowed to operate a state-owned vehicle. Dobbe is currently serving a 5-7 year sentence for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, terroristic threats and criminal mischief, but had previous drunk- and reckless-driving convictions.
At the news conference Houston said the program had been operating successfully since 1985, but "millions of safe miles driven does not stop bad things from happening."
Houston says the primary mission of the department is to prepare inmates for reentry into the pubic as the majority of inmates return to their communities within three years of being jailed. He says the discontinuation of the Inmate Van Driver program will not have an adverse effect on reentry.