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Inmate centers in Pompano, Bradenton will stay open

Days after an outcry from state legislators, the Department of Corrections has decided to keep open two faith-based work release centers that help inmates get jobs and learn life skills in the months before they rejoin society. As a result, no inmates will be forced to move back into the general prison population.

The centers, in Bradenton and Pompano Beach, are run by a private not-for-profit company, Bridges of America. The prison system decided to save money by closing the centers, but lawmakers angrily criticized the decision at a hearing last Friday.

Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker initiated talks with Bridges CEO Lori Costantino-Brown this week, and they quickly came to an agreement. The deal requires Bridges to eliminate 148 of the 538 beds at the two centers as inmates complete their sentences, which will save an estimated $2 million over the next year.

"It was a miracle," said Costantino-Brown, who described inmates and staff members as "jubilant" when they heard the news Wednesday.

"That's wonderful. That's great news," said Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, who had been among the loudest critics of the centers' closing.

The shutdown created a brief public relations problem for DOC, because the agency has long touted the effectiveness of re-entry centers as a way to reduce chronic recidivism in the nation's third-largest prison system. "No one's going to be moved out," Tucker said. "We never said these were not good programs." -- Steve Bousquet

Comments

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Janet Smith

Now if the DOC Secretary would just realize the foolishness of his decision to close the only faith/character based women's prison in the state of Florida and the most successful with a recidivism rate of 6.5%. But then the Governor could not get revenge on the Tampa Bay Senators who voted against his privatization plans so Tucker has to obey his boss.

Nancy Burnham

I am glad to see the work release centers will stay open!!! I do hope that they will reverse the decision to close HCI. Many of us wonder if that was done because Rick Scott is angry with the Senators who voted against privatization of Florida prisons.

lawdog

Hillsborough Correctional Institution is the most corrupt facility in the state. The public doesn't have a clue what goes on there. For instance, when one 25+ years of service Lieutenant married an inmate he supervised on the outside work squad. Now, they are living on his FRS retirement. Also, the Classification Supervisor who was having sexual relations with the inmates & was terminated. There are so many staff members there who have been asked to resign or be terminated for staff-inmate relationships. It is never publicized, but just swept under the rug. In the last few years there has been 15+ staff members engaging in staff-inmate relationships. This is a crime that continues to occur at HCI unpunished or publicized. HCI never tries to prosecute anyone because they don't want any negative publicity. HCI would rather hide behind a facade. Someone needs to step up and really investigate HCI. You can even ask the Administration about their "Wall of Shame Board". It is a board of all of the staff members who have had staff-inmate relationships & resigned under investigation or was terminated. Also, don't forget the Lieutenant that failed a drug test and was terminated. This Lieutenant had already been in a drug rehab for his ongoing substance abuse problem which was continuously covered up.

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