TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state’s Department of Corrections is under fire for choosing not to renew the contract of a South Florida prisoner reentry facility that teaches inmates valuable lessons on rehabilitation and helps keep them from going back to prison – and a Bradenton facility could be next. Lawmakers are now putting heat on the Department of Corrections and even saying they’ve been misled.
The Fight to keep the Broward Bridge prisoner reentry facility open in South Florida escalated Monday.
The contract for the The Bridges of America transitional program for prisoners expires May 16th. Senator Greg Evers says the programs are supported by the Governor and a valuable tool to cut into recidivism.
“This past session, I was afraid for this program and actually put language into the budget that would have protected this program,” said Sen. Evers (R-Pensacola.
But then he made a scathing accusation against the state’s Department of Corrections.
“I was told there was no need that they weren’t going to close this program. So I got off the tractor today, put on a suit and come to Tallahassee, because I was lied to,” he said.
The Department plans to turn the Broward facility into office space. A spokesman responded to Evers’ claim by saying the conversations between the Senator and DOC concerned where funding for the programs would come from.
Former prisoners who have gone through the programs say they’re not sure where they’d be without them.
Polk County’s Dianna Love spent two years in a Bradenton re-entry facility which could also be on the chopping block this summer. She says the program helped her re-enter society after spending a decade behind bars.
“If you’re in that program because you want to make a change and a difference in your life, you don’t want to go back out and do the same things or be the same that you were before,” she said.
Senator Evers says he anticipates the Governor will be getting involved in the situation in the near future.
The Bradenton Bridge program’s contract expires in July. Supporters of the women’s facility will hold a rally tomorrow (Tuesday to plead with DOC to reconsider.