TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - "Tough on crime" might sound like a winning strategy to get criminals off the streets, but a spending watchdog says the slogan is outdated and is costing Floridians in the long run.
Earlier this month there was public outcry over the threatened closing of two prisoner transition programs in the state. The Broward Bridge and Bradenton Bridge programs provide work training and substance abuse counseling.
"The transition that a work release facility gave me, I had a little bit of society, and that's something that was super important for me," describes former Bridges inmate Francois Finney.
The state Department of Corrections eventually relented and extended the contracts of both facilities. It's those types of programs that spending watchdog Florida TaxWatch says the state needs more of.
"You want to make sure that if you're in a darkened theater with two or three gentleman that are in that theater who just got out of prison, you want to know they got the drug treatment, the proper training, the job skills, the education so that they don't go back," says Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro.
TaxWatch released a report calling for multiple reforms to the state's prison system. The message-- tough on crime is tough on taxpayers. They say not enough is being done to reduce recidivism.
"It costs Floridians untold hundreds of millions of dollars annually and we want to make us safer and save taxpayers a lot of money. Money that can be spent on early learning and education," explains Calabro.
Capitol News Service reached out to the Department of Corrections about the report and they were receptive, saying they're making similar changes.
Another reason the programs are necessary-- almost 8,500 inmates released each year return to Florida prisons within three years.
The report says the state locks up more than 150.000 people each year. Prison inmates cost taxpayers about $50 a day, while people in jail cost around $65 a day.
The report recommends moving low-level offenders to treatment programs rather than behind bars.