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Work centers may get tougher inmates

Some of Florida's work-release centers, used for prisoners who are allowed to work in the community, might be upgraded to house more-dangerous inmates. The centers, which have room for 4,093 inmates, have about 3,000 empty beds at a time when the state Department of Corrections is trying to find ways to ease overcrowding in high-security prisons, said David Tune, community correctional services administrator with the department.

Only inmates classified as minimum-custody are allowed in work-release centers, which lack fences and other security measures, Tune said.

Some work-release beds became vacant earlier this year when Gov. Bob Martinez ordered that some inmates be removed from work-release centers and other community facilities and sent to more-secure prisons.

The order followed the arrest of a work-release inmate in the slaying of a woman at aTallahassee mall.

The inmate, Donald David Dillbeck, was sent to Quincy Vocational Center in Gadsden County and classified minimum-custody despite having served less than half of a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence for murder.

Quincy Vocational Center is a community correctional facility but is not a work-release center. Dillbeck escaped when he was taken off prison grounds on a work detail.

Some of the state's 37 work-release centers could be converted to drug treatment facilities or work camps by improving security, including fences, Tune said.

Officials are expected to decide next month which centers to convert, he said.

The officials will consider several factors, including the possible threat to surrounding neighborhoods from housing medium-custody inmates in work-release centers.