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Politics

Justice Appropriations Chair Wants Tighter Rules for Inmate Rehab Efforts

October 18, 2011 - 6:00pm

The state must improve its risk analysis on inmates before spending time on their pre-release training and education, the chairman of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee said Wednesday.

State Rep. Richard Glorioso, R-Plant City, said the analysis must determine inmates that can be trained or educated before investing any time or money into the rehabilitation effort.

The risk analysis has to be done prior to them entering programs, Glorioso said. I dont think we have a good one here right now.

Glorioso described four kinds of prisoners:

-- "The lifer that is going to be there forever," he said.

-- "The guy who, no matter what you do, he's coming back when he gets out. He's just not going to turn.

-- "The guy who is not coming back because he made just one mistake.

-- "And then there is the guy who, through risk analysis and training, is the guy you can make who never comes back to prison again."

William Carr, assistant secretary of re-entry for the Department of Corrections, said the state is working with Florida State University and the National Institute for Corrections to validate potential risk-assessment programs.

We currently have a risk-recidivism index we assign to each inmate, Carr said.

The state classifies inmates on a 5-point index, he said. Those at a 1 are not expected to re-offend, while those given a 5 would be expected to return to prison no matter how much training is provided.

The focus is on the inmates rated a 3 or 4, Carr said.

That is the aim of the ... department, to make sure we are plugging those inmates into the appropriate programs, he said.

Carr was before the subcommittee Wednesday to give an overview of the vocational training, substance-abuse treatment and faith-based programs that are available to inmates.

The department is expected to be competing for prison dollars in the coming year aslawmakers continue efforts to privatize facilities in 18 South Florida counties.

According to the Department of Corrections:

-- In March, the department housed 102,191 inmates, with another 180,907 under community supervision.

-- The state has 144 facilities, including six privately operated institutions, 40 work camps, 33 work-release centers, five road prisons and three forestry camps.

-- The state has seen a reduction in those being imprisoned, dropping from 39,907 in 2007 to 35,721 in 2010.

-- The average sentence is five years.

-- Of the inmates housed in Floridas jails, 76,000 have no GED or high school diploma.

-- The median academic achievement level of the prison population is seventh grade.

Last year, the department released 35,549 inmates -- enough to double or more than double the population of 46 counties in Florida. Within the next three years, approximately 10,664 of those released are expected to return to prison.

Carr said the return rate drops for those who complete drug treatment, vocational training or education programs while in prison.

Very clearly, there is a success rate for those who complete substance-abuse programs versus those who do not. There is about a 5 to 6 percent reduction in recidivism, Carr said. And I think you will see that as well for those who achieve vocational certificates and education, if they increase their academic achievement as well.

The odds of getting released from jail also improve with a high school diploma.

In the next three years, turnover at the jails will allow more than 100,000 to get out. Of those, 41,000 will be released with no high school diploma or GED.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859 or (772) 215-9889.

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