Saturday’s letters: Short-sighted prison cuts hurt society

Published May 9 2018
Updated May 11 2018

Call to rethink prison cuts | May 10

Short-sighted prison cuts hurt society

The Florida Department of Corrections is dismantling successful substance abuse and re-entry treatment programs to fix a $28 million shortfall. The short-sighted action will adversely affect communities, offenders, and businesses: an action that is totally unacceptable.

The loss of substance abuse inmate programs means a greater likelihood of drug and alcohol relapse and a greater chance for repeat criminal offenders. The loss of therapeutic beds means no more graduated re-entry into society and offenders going back into their communities without critical substance abuse treatment. These programs are integral to rehabilitation; these offenders obtain jobs, pay restitution, child support and fines.

The DOC cuts also affect drug courts. Judgesí options to choose a substance abuse diversionary program over a prison sentence will be greatly diminished, thus continuing to crowd Floridaís prison system, and denying treatment to offenders in the community. Inmates currently in diversionary and re-entry programs receiving the cuts will need to be resentenced and reassigned.

The DOC cuts affect every single contracted facility that offers substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs. The providers will lay off more than 600 full-time employees. The promise by the DOC to re-establish programs once money is somehow back in the budget rings hollow with no plan in place to secure funding being lost. Treatment centers have spent years to launch and refine substance abuse treatment programs; they canít easily be re-established.

The cost to house an offender for nine months in a community substance abuse treatment bed is far less than the average 3-year sentence for a drug offender in prison. A community-based approach can easily save the state $30,000 per inmate over the course of a drug-offender sentence.

The loss caused by this action to communities, individuals, and businesses is staggering. The Florida Department of Corrections cuts to Substance Abuse Treatment Programs (representing just 1.5 percent of the entire DOCís $2.4 billion budget) should not be happening at all, let alone in the middle of the opioid crisis and the worst drug epidemic the state has ever experienced.

Mark Fontaine, Tallahassee

The writer is executive director at the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.

Call to rethink prison cuts

Saving money and people

The programs that are being cut at state prisons are very important to the well-being of the inmatesí return to society upon their release. Many inmates have also been court-ordered to get substance-abuse treatment while incarcerated, and if these programs are done away with, it will affect the personís ability to complete their court order. Drug use in Florida is so high, and the need for treatment thus is also very high. With these programs, inmates being released are better prepared to cope on the outside, and thus keep crime down and recidivism down (which would cost the state more when a person re-enters).

Another issue is the proposal to cut visitation at the prisons. Visitation is important to the inmate to build and keep a bond, especially with their children. Children already suffer when a parent is incarcerated, and they need that time with their parent.

And, finally, I believe that when people have fully completed the terms of their sentence, they should automatically have their rights to vote restored. We donít punish our children for something they did, and when they have completed the punishment, keep on punishing them. After they have been punished, they are forgiven. Why do we treat inmates as something less?

Carolyn Hankins, Thonotosassa

He made his mark on bakery, boxing | May 8

He was a good man

I was saddened to read of the passing of Phil Alessi. I moved to Tampa in mid-1981 and took a position with a local commercial bank. Philís accounts were assigned to me, and I got to know him well. In early 1982, the bank where I was employed failed, and I started calling all my clients to advise them that their accounts were secure and we would be waiting to see to whom the bank would be sold. When I called Phil, the first thing he asked me was if staff was all right. I advised him we were fine, but we were required to stay into the night in order to see who the purchasing bank might be. Phil took it upon himself to send over to the bank boxes of Cuban sandwiches for the staff, simply out of his concern for us all. It was an act of generosity that I will always remember. He will be missed.

Mike Little, San Antonio

A huge step backward | May 9. editorial

Trumpís dislike of Obama

So another of former President Barack Obamaís major achievements during his administration has been kicked to the curb. Have we known of a sitting president who has shown such blatant animus toward his predecessor, whose primary agenda is to dismantle or even destroy Obamaís legacy?

John Hayner, Clearwater

Longo: Rays should move | May 11

First, play better baseball

The Tampa Bay Raysí demand for a new stadium to improve attendance is like saying a new racket will make you play better tennis. The Rays need to field a winning team. Then, the revenue flow could perhaps someday warrant a new stadium.

Parker Reis, St. Petersburg

Baby steps are first steps | May 5, letter

Sensible rules on guns

It is almost impossible to alter the Second Amendment. But even rank-and-file NRA members want better background checks. How about a gun license that needs to be renewed like a driverís license? The number of legal opiate users has grown, so why not add a blood test to the background check? Make insurance mandatory. None of this would impede sensible gun ownership.

Robert Spencer, Dunedin