In a bi-partisan push -- and a shared ghost writer -- three Orlando-based state representatives and one from Ocala added their voices to the chorus of opposition to the Florida Department of Corrections' decision to close down the Broward-based Bridges of America work release and transition program for inmates at the end of their sentence.
Reps. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, Rene Plascencia, R-Orlando, Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando and Victor Torres, D-Orlando, sent identical letters to Corrections Secretary Julie Jones on Wednesday urging her not to close down the facility that is run by the Bridges of America organization, which is based in Orlando.
Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, also sent a letter with the same word-for-word plea but she also included a scolding of Jones for reducing the overall number of transition beds, rejected Jones' promise that the inmates will be accommodated in other parts of the state, and suggested it was an about-face from the commitment Jones has made to legislators when she was confirmed by the Senate earlier this year.
Bridges has filed a administrative law challenges against the action and FDC spokesman McKinley Lewis said he could not comment on a pending legal matter.
Here is our post on Young. Here are the letters and the boilerplate from them: Download Letter_RepTorres, Download Letter of Spport for Bridges of America_Plasencia. Download Bridges.Baxley, Download Letter_Bridges of A_Bracy:
It has come to my attention that the Department intends to close the Pompano Work Release/Program Center in Broward County (the “Broward (Pompano) SATREC Program) in order to utilize the facilities for more office space. I, along with many of my colleagues in the Florida Legislature, am a strong proponent of these types of facilities and programs, believing that our best chance to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety is to release rehabilitated, treated, and well-prepared inmates back into our communities following their sentences.
Further, I have come to believe that community-based providers do an extraordinary job in partnering with the State to accomplish these goals. Madame Secretary, I urge you not to shut down this vital program. Understanding the important role you play as Secretary in ensuring the safety of our State and the rehabilitation of our inmates, I hope you will agree that a decision as drastic as to close down such a facility is one worth discussing and vetting with key stakeholders. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.