Michael Miller, reacting to my column on the disparate calls for re-think pouring so much money to building new prisons in Florida, offers his personal insight:
In the mid 1990's, the FL: department of corrections, realizing it
would soon run out of prison space and have to discharge prisoners,
implemented what they called a "non-secure" community based drug
treatment program. Referred to them as an alternative to incarceration
were non-violent drug offenders determined to need treatment.
At the Village South, we treated about 60 at a time, in the program designed by DOC, which included 2 months of intensive residential treatment followed by 4 months of residential treatment while getting jobs and working during the day.
These diversion clients were closely monitored; I dare say we knew more about their whereabouts then is known about community control probationers.
Did I mention what we were paid? $35/day per client. This was too little, true. But compare that to the cost of a prison bed, which at that time was somewhere around $90-$110/day, if my memory serves me correct.
Furthermore, the DOC's own recidivism statistics showed less recidivism among this group than among those going through the prison system.
So what ultimately happened? The state built more prisons, canceled this program, and filled the prisons at increased cost to taxpayers.
The cynical might ask: who's interest does our legislature serve? .