Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State says prisoner re-entry center in Largo lacks basic security

LARGO — The cameras were in the wrong places, the lights didn't illuminate some key areas and the back fence has been all too easy for an inmate to hop.

A nine-page report from the state Department of Corrections found plenty of flaws at the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center, where two recent incidents led to inmates being charged with violent crimes.

The facility lacked some of the most basic security measures, according to the report. For instance, when state inspectors searched the facility thoroughly, they found "excessive amounts of unauthorized property" including five screwdrivers and six pairs of scissors, leading to 12 inmates being sent back to lockup at a state prison.

When the inspectors asked the inmates why they had so much contraband, "they advised routine searches of the rooms are not conducted by center staff due to staff shortages." So, among the report's recommendations: Start having routine searches.

The review found problems with more than just security at the work-release facility at 16432 U.S. 19 N, which is operated by Goodwill Industries as a base for inmates who have jobs outside. The report notes that 173 of the facility's inmates are in need of substance-abuse treatment, yet there is only one substance-abuse counselor on staff. As a result, drug-addicted inmates were frequently being released without getting any drug treatment.

"This is a good start," state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said of the report and its recommendations. But it doesn't go far enough, he said. He was particularly concerned about how easily inmates can pass back and forth through the gates on their bicycles. The report found that inmates walk or ride their bikes to employers in the area, and are supposed to come back if they don't find work.

"There is no way for the center to know if the inmate went to work or not unless he returns to the center," the report noted. So one recommendation that's already been implemented calls for the employers to show up at the center and get the inmates they want to employ.

Latvala said he now has questions about how Goodwill runs all of its work-release facilities, and he's convinced that the one in Largo is simply too large for the residential neighborhood in which it sits.

The Largo facility has been under increased scrutiny because of two incidents involving its inmates. In September, Michael Scott Norris escaped from the Largo facility. Police say he killed two men in the Kenwood neighborhood of St. Petersburg and set the home where they were working on fire.

Then, earlier this month, police made an arrest at the Largo facility. They accused Dustin Kennedy, 28, of attacking and raping a 17-year-old girl as she walked to her school bus stop in Clearwater.

A Tampa Bay Times review of state records found that inmates escape from the center about once every two weeks — 27 times in the year that ended June 2012 and 26 times in each of the previous two years.

Information from Bay News 9 was used in this report. Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@tampabay.com.

State says prisoner re-entry center in Largo lacks basic security 01/28/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 6:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. As Trump's fraud commission sought data, some Florida voters cancelled registrations

    Blogs

    After news spread last month that President Donald Trump’s fraud commission was requesting voter data from all 50 states, 1,715 voters in Florida took themselves off the …

    Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R) and US Vice President Mike Pence, attend the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on July 19, in Washington, DC.
  2. We're big fans of keeping it cool with fun inside this summer

    Events

    It's safe to say we take the complex, mysterious unicorn of air conditioning for granted.

    How cold is too cold? Researchers have tried for years to determine an ideal thermostat setting for offices, and it’s a hard question to answer.
  3. Former SEAL Kristin Beck blasts Trump decision banning transgenders from military

    Military

    Kristin Beck, a former member of SEAL Team 6 who is now a transgender woman, says the decision by President Donald Trump to ban transgender people from serving in the military would cost more in lawsuits than the savings Trump touted in medical and other costs.

    Kristin Beck, who has transitioned from former Navy SEAL Chris Beck, says President Trump's ban on transgender people in the military disrupts ongoing efforts to integrate them into the services. [Times file]
  4. 5 things to do under $5 July: Bucs training camp, Dive-In Movie, free Glazer Museum admission

    Events

    1 Bucs Training Camp: The public is invited to a series of free Bucs practices through Aug. 26. And don't forget this season HBO's Hard Knocks will focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including quarterback Jameis Winston, right. There will be discounted concessions, merchandise tents, appearances by …

    LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times (2016) Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.