A woman who began as an entry-level prison guard in 1982 has been put in charge of a program to help inmates leaving Florida’s massive prison system avoid returning to a life behind bars, reports the Associated Press. Hieteenthia ”Tina” Hayes, 49, said the system must provide more educational and vocational assistance to inmates from the first day they enter prison. ”This is everybody’s problem,” said Hayes, who has earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in her off-duty hours and is now finishing a doctorate. ”It’s high time we stop doing things the way we used to do it,” she said. “We cannot continue to lock them up and throw away the key.”
Prisons director Jim McDonough said 36,000 inmates will be leaving the system within 12 months and that a third of those will return within three years, many because they won’t have enough education to land jobs. He would like to reduce the recidivism rate to one in five by 2012, starting with more educational opportunities and drug treatment for inmates. He said 64 percent of inmates need substance abuse treatment, but fewer than one in five receive it, and more than half of state prisons do not have educational or vocational programs.