Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida work-release centers about to get electronic monitoring for inmates

Law enforcement officers search room to room Jan. 7 at the Largo Residential Re-entry Center, which has had escape issues.


Law enforcement officers search room to room Jan. 7 at the Largo Residential Re-entry Center, which has had escape issues.

Florida is poised to make significant changes to privately operated work-release programs now that lawmakers have agreed to beef up security and limit the size of the centers.

Tucked into the state budget are three paragraphs that provide $3.8 million for electronic monitoring of inmates. In addition, the centers will be capped at a population of 200 inmates, and any facility with more than 100 inmates will be required to have at least one certified corrections officer on the premises at all times.

Gov. Rick Scott has the power to veto individual line items in the budget, but he previously announced that getting ankle bracelets to monitor inmates was a priority.

The last two changes, prompted by two local lawmakers, will directly impact the embattled Largo Residential Re-Entry Center.

With nearly 300 inmates housed in a converted motel off U.S. 19 near Whitney Road, the facility is by far the state's largest. It is operated by Goodwill Industries under a state contract with the Department of Corrections. It's the only work-release center in Florida with more than 200 inmates.

In late February, one of its inmates pleaded guilty to escaping and killing two men renovating a St. Petersburg house. Another inmate is awaiting trial on charges that he brutally raped and tried to kill a 17-year-old girl on her way to school.

"If the facility is going to be there, we got it buttoned up as well as we can get it," said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

"My ultimate hope is that we never have another incident at the Largo work-release center in comparison with what we've had happen twice in the last year," said state Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater.

Hooper and Latvala, who represent districts that include the Largo center, said they have worked hard to respond to nearby residents who have raised concerns about the facility for years.

Still unclear, however, is how some of the changes — which would take effect July 1 — will be implemented. Scott has yet to officially sign the budget.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Ann Howard said the agency plans to start electronic monitoring with a pilot program at a facility yet to be determined.

"There's a lot to figure out," Howard said Monday. "We're so early in the process we don't have a lot of answers yet."

Officials must decide who will do the monitoring, and whether the change will require the work to be bid out to a contractor.

The DOC's probation department already has electronic monitoring, but work release comes with its own challenges.

For instance, it may be difficult to set up the "range" for inmates who have jobs that require them to travel, like landscaping.

Currently, the state Department of Corrections operates 23 work-release centers. Nine others, including the Largo center, are run by private companies that have contracts with the state. State facilities are required to hire people who have passed a certification exam as correctional officers, but that has not been a requirement for the private companies such as Goodwill.

Now the private facilities will need at least one certified staff member at all times, a change that Hooper called "a no-brainer." By comparison, he said, "In a classroom, should we have a certified teacher or maybe some nice folks who want to come in and volunteer?"

Goodwill applauded the decision to fund electronic monitoring.

"We will make all the changes mandated by the new legislation, as will other organizations operating work-release centers throughout Florida," spokeswoman Chris Ward told the Tampa Bay Times in a statement Monday.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at or (727) 893-8643. Curtis Krueger can be reached at or (727) 893-8232.

Florida work-release centers about to get electronic monitoring for inmates 05/06/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 6, 2013 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]