From the News Service of Florida: Fewer Florida prison inmates are re-offending after their release, Corrections Secretary Mike Crews said Monday.
The percentage of inmates who commit another crime within three years of release has dropped from 33 percent for those freed as of 2003 to 27.6 percent for those freed as of 2008.
The drop in re-offenders contributed to a reduction in the total number of inmates admitted, which decreased from 41,054 in Fiscal Year 2007-08 to 32,279 for Fiscal Year 2011-12.
Crews said DOC had put new emphasis on correcting some of the conditions that land an overwhelming number of inmates behind bars to begin with – a lack of education, vocational training, mental health and/or substance abuse treatment.
"If you live in Florida when these inmates are released, they're standing in the grocery store line next to you," Crews said. "Eighty-seven percent of our current inmate population right now will be released, and they're going to be released back into our communities."
Crews acknowledged that the Transition from Prison to Community Initiative, with its increased emphasis on rehabilitation, "is a significant cultural change" for DOC.
"Historically in our agency, it has been about locking them up, turning them out and hoping for the best when they get out," Crews said. "I think we've all seen that just does not work when you look at the exploding rates that we saw for a number of years."
The move comes as an increasing number of interest groups – particularly in the business community – are arguing that Florida spends too much money on criminal justice, at the expense of other things business wants like improved education.
A one percent reduction in recidivism equates to a savings of nearly $19 million over five years, according to DOC data.
And according to Gov. Rick Scott, taxpayers have realized a savings of $44 million by reducing the recidivism rate.
"We’re reinvesting a portion of that savings by providing hardworking corrections employees bonuses for their service in making our communities safer," Scott said in a statement.
Scott also has recommended lawmakers earmark $5.4 million to open the Gadsden Re-Entry Center at the Florida Public Safety Institute.
Crews credited the re-entry program, which already has four locations statewide, with helping inmates prepare for release and transition to successfully to work and family life.
-- Margie Menzel