Wakulla Correctional Institution at Crawfordville is going from a traditional lock-up with a small faith-based program to an entirely faith-based facility.
Inmate Tom Siebert attended the dedication on Wednesday. The former newspaper reporter serving time for cocaine possession says the prison’s programs centered on a higher power changed him for the better. “They try to show us that we are valuable and that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives.”
The positive news comes at a critical time for the prison system. Several recent scandals have sparked policy changes including random drug-testing and automatic suspension for employees accused of violence.
Over the past few months, 11 corrections employees have been arrested on everything from steroid distribution to a guy holding a fake job so he could be a ringer on a prison softball team.
But the head of the department, James Crosby, says the good here outweighs the bad. “Things that are not good from a publicity standpoint or a news standpoint happen also in this business. You know, it’s a mixture of both. I would just hate for anything else to deflect from what’s happening here and the good thing that’s happening here today.”
And Jeb Bush remains supportive. “The Department of Corrections does extraordinary work under very difficult circumstances, I might add, and I’m proud of the work that’s done.”
He’s also proud of the progress made by the inmates at Wakulla, which becomes the third faith-based prison in the state, and the largest in the nation.
The faith-based program in the Florida prison system is completely voluntary, and inmates don’t have to belong to any particular religion to participate. Nearly 1800 inmates participate in faith-based programs at prisons around the state.