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Florida Expands Education Opportunities For Prisoners

Secretary Julie Jones meets with inmates at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.
Florida Department of Corrections Facebook
Secretary Julie Jones meets with inmates at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.
Secretary Julie Jones meets with inmates at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.
Credit Florida Department of Corrections Facebook
/
Florida Department of Corrections Facebook
Secretary Julie Jones meets with inmates at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.

Florida prisoners will have new education opportunities under a law signed by Gov. Rick Scott. 

In an overinflated job market, finding work is difficult. For people who have served time in prison, it can be nearly impossible.

But a bill signed by Governor Scott could better prepare prisoners for the job market, by allowing the Florida Department of Corrections to partner with local school districts and the Florida College system to provide some prisoners with vocational training and post-secondary education.

“One of the biggest challenges anyone has – and especially someone who’s been in the prison system – is finding a job,” says Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole).  "Especially at today’s skill level, minimum requirements are a high school diploma which some of these men and women have not obtained.” 

Ahern says the bill represents something that should’ve been done years ago. He hopes it provides prisoners with the skills necessary to be successful after serving their time.

The Postsecondary Workforce Education program provides a range of education options from career certification programs and apprenticeships to degree career education programs.

But Florida law prohibited state funds from being used to educate inmates – until now.

Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) hopes the program will keep ex-inmates from returning to prison.

“I’m excited about the fact that when you have a person’s body locked up, you must find ways of touching their minds and their hearts so that they don’t go back out and recidivate," explains Rouson. "You must give them opportunity to increase, enhance, obtain an education as well as job skills and training.”

The bill allows prisoners with 24 months or less left on their sentence to participate in the workforce education program.

The DOC can now partner with local schoolboards, Florida Virtual School or select charter schools to provide educational, career or vocational training.

In a statement, the DOC said it’s excited to provide prisoners with enhanced opportunities that are “a vital part of helping inmates transition back into society.” 

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Shawn Mulcahy is a junior at Florida State University pursuing a degree in public relations and political science. Before WFSU, he worked as an Account Coordinator at RB Oppenheim Associates and a contributing indie writer for the music blog EARMILK. After graduation, he plans to work in journalism or government communications. He enjoys coffee, reading and music.