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Inmate Re-Entry Facilities Fight Funding Changes

Prison corridor with inmates in distance
Associated Press
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Advocates for inmate re-entry facilities said Thursday a Florida Department of Corrections plan to change the way work-release and substance-abuse programs are funded violates state law and may increase rates of recidivism.
Re-entry contractors led by Bridges of America — which provides services in some major cities and has an Orlando contract set to expire Dec. 31 — told reporters the Department of Corrections is running afoul of a requirement that substantial changes in corrections funding are subject to legislative and executive-branch review. The contractors said the changes would reallocate funds from facilities like theirs to programs inside prisons.

Lori Costantino-Brown, president of Bridges of America, said the Department of Corrections notified her organization in July that its state contract would be rebid through a process known as a request for proposals. The department then gave Bridges of America a three-month extension on an existing contract while preparing for the procurement process.
The department and Bridges of America reached an agreement in May that allowed Bridges to continue operating facilities in Broward and Manatee counties, albeit under altered conditions and subject to termination by the department after two years. Both contracts include three one-year renewal options.

Department officials say their plan would provide services to more prisoners with the same funding levels, while re-entry facility representatives claim the state's plan focuses simply on "filling prison slots," increasing the volume of prisoners served but with diminished effectiveness.