Florida’s taxpayers are saving millions of dollars because fewer felons are returning to prison after being released, reports the Associated Press. Department of Corrections Secretary Michael D. Crews, who announced the decline Monday, also said he supports proposals to increase facilities that focus on preventing inmates from reverting to crime but opposes letting private companies run them. Recidivism has been trending down for years. Inmates returning to prison within three years of release dropped from 33.8 percent in 2003 to 27.6 percent in 2008, Crews said.
He credited law enforcement as well as the prison system for that decline. Florida’s crime rate is at a 41-year low, and overall prison admissions declined to 32,279 in the budget year ending June 30. That compares to nearly 35,000 the year before and 41,000 in 2007-08. Education is the state’s leading anti-recidivism strategy along with boosting substance abuse and mental health treatment. Crews said the effort also includes such simple things as ensuring inmates have an identification card when they are released so they can get a job and find a place to live. His department, meanwhile, is undergoing a cultural change. “Historically in our agency it has been about locking them up, turning them out and hoping for the best when they get out,” Crews said. “I think we’ve all seen that just does not work.”