It took the murders of two men and the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl by escapees from a Largo work-release center for the Florida Legislature to finally make major security changes in the state's 32 centers. New rules, pushed by two Clearwater Republicans, Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Ed Hooper, include a $3.8 million electronic monitoring program, limits on the number of inmates housed at work-release centers and a requirement for at least one certified full-time corrections officer on duty. These steps should ease neighborhood safety concerns.
With some 300 inmates, the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center managed by Goodwill Industries is the state's largest work-release center. The crimes committed by escapees exposed the dangers of understaffed and overcrowded work-release centers.
Under the new commonsense rules, the size of work-release centers will be capped at 200 inmates. Inmates will be required to wear electronic monitoring devices, and facilities managed by private contractors will have to have a certified corrections officer on duty.
The new rules, written into the state budget approved by lawmakers last week, offer inmates a better chance to prove they can become productive citizens and will provide a greater sense of security for the public.