DOC: $95 Million In the Red - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

DOC: $95 Million In the Red

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Closing down or privatizing some state prisons to save money is old news, but would it bother you to know that the process could cost Floridians at least $15 million more than expected.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of the Department of Corrections told lawmakers their deficit is up to $95 million.

Secretary Michael Crews said miscalculations and delays in closing a South Florida correctional facility added to a deficit carried over from previous years. The secretary argued that shutting down facilities can be costly.

Last year, the legislature debated a massive effort to privatize prisons in the southern third of the state, which eventually was defeated.

But for people in the system, they can't help but think of other options to save money. The 14th Judicial Circuit's Public Defender's Office is a proponent of the rehabilitation of non-violent felons.

Such programs like the DAWGs program out of the Gulf County Correctional Institution's Forestry Camp can lower recidivism. "It's just tremendous being able to have a program like this that not only saves the dog's lives but also helps to rehabilitate the inmates that are here," Sandi Christy said.

It is said that such measures could help lower the recidivism among inmates. According to DOC data, two in five offenders entering prisons each year are re-offenders, but less than one-fourth ever get treatment.

Legislation introduced Tuesday would help beef up rehabilitation programs that target problems affecting inmates. "A significant number of offenders have underlying issues. Including mental health and substance abuse and that if we deal with them early enough we can break the pattern of criminal behavior." Florida Smart Justice Alliance Barney Bishop said.

The measure may face resistance from the top: Senate President Don Gaetz. He told the News Service of Florida that if our crime rate is at a 41-year low, he's not sure we should change our processes.