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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Julie L. Jones

Florida Department of Corrections
Julie L. Jones, Secretary

Press Release
May 16, 2008
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
(850) 488-0420

Governor to Address first Restoration of Rights Summit:
A Summit on Successful Re-entry

Governor Charlie Crist and Department of Corrections Secretary Walter A. McNeil will kick off the first statewide Restoration of Rights Summit at the Capitol building in Tallahassee on June 17-18, 2008. The Summit’s short-term goal is to gather input from other agencies and community organizations to identify barriers to ex-offenders' re-entry into society, such as restoration of their civil rights, and to determine viable solutions to those barriers. Its long-term goal is to develop a formal and comprehensive re-entry strategic plan to address the growing problem of ex-inmates returning to prison, who do so in part because they don’t have the tools to succeed when released.

“This Summit is the first step in a 'get smart on crime' approach to reducing the recidivism rate – by making it easier for ex-offenders to reintegrate into society by restoring their civil rights and providing them access to information about housing, jobs, and even something as simple as where to get their driver’s license, helps make our communities safer. Our ultimate mission is public safety, and an ex-inmate who has a stable job is one who is less likely to commit another crime and come back to prison,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walter A. McNeil.

In 2007, the Department of Corrections changed its mission statement to reflect its responsibility to assist inmates with their re-entry back into society. Studies show that inmates are less likely to reoffend if they have employment and job training in the community upon release. Florida has a rapidly increasing prison population of over 96,000 inmates, with approximately 35,000 inmates being released from prisons each year. About a third of them (32.8%) will reoffend and return to prison within three years, creating thousands of more victims in the process. Therefore, we believe addressing the barriers to re-entry is vital to public safety.

The Summit, and other re-entry efforts are being funded by a $40,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In addition to the Summit in June, Secretary McNeil has appointed an Advisory Council consisting of key stakeholders including legislators, law enforcement, social workers and community members who will assist the Department in the development and coordination of strategies to improve outcomes for released offenders. The Council is tasked with compiling the recommendations from the Restoration of Rights Summit and subsequent council meetings to build the Department’s re-entry strategy. The formation of an Advisory Council not only serves to propose initiatives to effect successful re-entry, but also allows the state to be eligible for federal funding (the Second Chance Act) to implement these initiatives.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation grant is also being used to develop the following aids to assist offenders with their re-entry into society:

  • Resource Directory – This database, created and accessible by Departmental staff, will include information from all 67 counties about housing, jobs, education, job training, mental health and substance abuse counseling, food, clothing, and more. Staff will provide this timely information to inmates prior to their release.

  • Virtual Case Managers – Offenders/ex-offenders will be able to contact a “virtual case manager” (VCM) located in Tallahassee via phone, fax or email during business hours to gain resource information while in the community.

  • Focus Groups – These groups will be developed using ex-offenders to determine and learn from their successes and failures during the re-entry phase

  • Transition Assistant Passport – A pocket-size resource guide given to inmates upon their release, including sections on employment, housing, legal contact information, health care, family issues, etc.

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