Approximately 23,000 inmates of the 66,280 inmates in Florida's prisons return to their communities every year. Absent educational programs and meaningful work opportunities, inmates returning to the community will receive little if any self-improvement benefit from their incarceration. The department sees opportunities to improve lives when 78 percent of the inmate admissions test at the ninth grade level or below, while 47 percent test at the sixth grade or below (FY 97-98). This is critically important for first-time inmates.1 In an independent 1997 University Of Florida, Bureau of Economic and Business Research survey, over 90 percent of Florida resident respondents believed inmates should receive education and drug abuse treatment programs.2 Focused on this mandate, the department accepts as its second priority issue that of enhancing the ability of these inmates and the 144,733 offenders under supervision to become productive members of their communities after serving the sentence of the court.
The citizens of Florida expect the department to socialize these inmates and offenders and to do it in the most cost-effective manner possible. Success in this endeavor demands those inmates and offenders lacking adequate education, skills, and work experience have opportunities to participate in self-improvement and work programs. These programs focus on academic and vocational education, substance abuse treatment, and other specialized programs that multiply the number who successfully return to society.
Just how do Floridians expect the department to measure success in lowering the number of repeat criminals? Many erroneously perceive recidivism, the relapse into criminal behavior, as a barometer of success or failure of the correctional system. Recidivism is a nebulous measure since so many factors that influence its outcome are external to the department's control. In most cases, there are just too many negative community influences or pressures on an inmate or offender pressuring them to revert to old criminal behaviors.
The department tracks the recidivism rate (see glossary) to measure the positive influences of its socialization programs. The most recent recidivism rate data followed inmates/offenders released in FY 88-89 to FY 93-94, and tracks their progress for the next two years. Those released in FY 93-94, the rate is 18 percent, a 21.7 percent drop from the rate of those released in FY 88-89 (39.7%). The recidivism rate is on a downward trend.3
The immense challenge of influencing inmates and offenders to become productive members of society requires the department to focus on these three goals:
This issue and its associated goals are affected by numerous trends, conditions, external influences, existing departmental capabilities, and technology innovations; also known as a Trends and Conditions Analysis (TCA). For readability, each goal's TCA sets up its supporting objectives and strategies.
Goal 2-1: Maximize correctional cost-savings and cost-avoidance for state taxpayers.
Goal 2-2: Improve the Positive Community Reintegration of Inmates Through Educational, Specialized, and Transitional Programs.
Goal 2-3: Improve the Socialization of Offenders Through Community-Based Programs that Support a Positive Community Reintegration.