Drug and alcohol advocates to Rick Scott: ‘We have yet to hear’ from you

Group urges governor to block planned cuts to inmate rehabilitation efforts
A Florida prison [Miami Herald]
A Florida prison [Miami Herald]
Published May 21, 2018|Updated May 21, 2018

Two weeks after asking Gov. Rick Scott to step in and resolve a serious budget crisis in Florida's prison system, a leading advocacy group says it hasn't heard a word from the governor's office.

The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) sent a second letter to Scott Monday, urging him to take action to forestall reductions and eliminations of dozens of local substance abuse and re-entry programs to help close a $28 million operating deficit in the prison system.

"We have yet to hear from your office, and with a May 25, 2018 deadline quickly approaching, we are all running out of time to prevent cuts to vital programs," wrote the group's executive director, Mark Fontaine. "Now is not the time to take a step back."

"Without treatment, inmates and probationers are at higher risk to commit crimes and use drugs, undoing the progress Florida has made over the last 15 years in reducing recidivism rates and lowering the prison population," Fontaine added. "While these cuts may look like a quick fix to a budget shortfall, in reality they will only exacerbate the problem."

The Legislature has until Friday to object to the program cuts. Both houses have to lodge objections, otherwise the cuts will take effect.

The governor recommended more spending for the Florida Department of Corrections than the Legislature did, and Corrections Secretary Julie Jones is grappling with how to get the nation's third-largest prison system back in the black.

Jones has said she will be forced not only to curtail treatment programs for Florida inmates but will have to transfer money from next year's budget to make payroll for agency employees in June.

Scott's office has said that over the past three years, Corrections has received more than $124 million for pay raises for officers and make physical improvements and expand re-entry programs.