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Prisons can help felons get out and stay out

Prisons can help felons get out and stay out
By ASSOCIATED  PRESS
Published December 20,  2006


TALLAHASSEE – The state should create more  faith-based prisons and prepare a better exit strategy for all prisoners if it  wants to lower the number of inmates who are released only to commit more  crimes, a task force recommended Tuesday.

It said the prison system also  should focus more on job training and substance abuse programs, as well as  keeping inmates in touch with family and providing individual plans for what  they will do once released.

"We all too often put  ex-offenders back on the streets with no plan for them to successfully  re-enter the community. No homes, no job prospects and no support," said Vicki  Lopez Lukis, who chaired the Ex-Offender Task Force appointed by Gov. Jeb  Bush. "Even if they want to go straight after they’re released, they’re sucked  back into the crowd that got them into  trouble."
 
That plan should begin the  first day felons enter prison, she said.
 
The state should also expand by  six the number of faith-based prisons, the task force said. It now has one  each for men and women. There are more than 8,000 inmates on a waiting list to  get into the faith-based prisons, said Henree  Martin, who served on the task  force.
 
"In order to get into these  facilities, you must have a record of very few disciplinary reports, you have  to have evidence that you really want to change," said Martin. "When you apply  to come into a faith- and character-based facility, you’re basically saying,  ‘I don’t want to come back.’"
 
Many inmates begin GED, reading  or training programs in prison but are released or transferred before they  complete them. Prisons should either help inmates complete programs, or help  schedule their continuation after their release, the task force  said.
 
It said that of the nearly  90,000 inmates in state prisons, 44 percent had been released after serving a  previous sentence and then got caught after committing another  crime.