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Task force says state needs more faith-based prisons

Task force says state needs more faith-based prisons
Associated  Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – 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 get released only  to commit more crime, a task force recommended  Tuesday.

The prison system also should  focus more on job training and substance abuse programs for prisoners, as well  as keeping them 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. 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 that you 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, I want to  change.’"
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 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.