The Chairman of the Florida House Justice Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Rich Glorioso, says Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander personally removed funding for the Hillsborough Correctional Institution.
That’s the women’s faith-and-character based prison both the house and senate had previously agreed to fund.
The Plant City Republican who is finishing his final term in the house talked with WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien about HCI.
He has fought to keep it open because of HCI’s proven success. Only about 7 percent of the women who go through the faith-and-character based programs at the Hillsborough facility end up back in prison.
Glorioso said the lower recidivism makes HCI less expensive in the long term and helps women who will eventually be someone’s neighbor.
Here's a transcript of part of our interview:
BOBBIE O’BRIEN: The house and the senate both agreed on funding for HCI, what happened?
REP. RICH GLORIOSO: We thought on Friday when we were finished that it was a done deal that we were going to keep both open (HCI and Jefferson Correctional). However on Saturday, the Senate removed it from the budget.
OBRIEN: The senate was that a particular senator or committee?
GLORIOSO: Well the budget chair is the one that made the decision.
O’BRIEN: Okay and that’s Sen. JD Alexander?
GLORIOSO: Yes, it is.
O’BRIEN: Were you or Sen. (Ronda) Storms given any reason as to why that was deleted from the budget?
GLORIOSO: You know, I was not given a reason. Although, I know that it’s been very difficult for any project in Hillsborough County to be left alone because of the issues with USF and Poly Tech.
O’BRIEN: Some people are aligning this to the vote that defeated the move to privatize some of the prisons to the south. How is the house standing on that one?
GLORIOSO: As far as the house is concerned, we were ready to work on crafting a very good bill that would allow that to happen. The senate obviously it did not. Whether that had any influence on what happened, I don’t know.
O’BRIEN: You’ve had the secretary of the Department of Corrections in your committee and asked specific questions. Have you felt like the answers have matched up with the circumstances?
GLORIOSO: The problem I had with the department and their criteria, and that’s really where it fell in, was they did not use success rates, recidivism rates, in any determination on whether to close a prison. Hillsborough Prison is a very successful prison that helps these women that have made a mistake in their life recover and become successful and so, it will cost you more.
If you look at what’s going on throughout the country in prison reform and for those people who through risk analysis tell you they’re going to be successful if you give them the substance abuse training, the vocational training, the education, a GED or high school diploma, if you can give them that kind of help, they will be successful.
If you can give them the feeling of hope, a feeling that they are worth something because many times they’ve been treated very horribly, you give them that faith, that hope in the future they’re very successful.
And so, we know it’s going to cost more and I don’t mind paying more where we’re taking people that are successful and not only that we have the volunteer base to make it successful with its faith and character based mission.
O’BRIEN: I guess the Department of Corrections would argue, well gee, we’ve got this big facility at Lowell which is brand new, just built. We have the Hernando facility, both of those are faith-based. Why can’t you recreate the success that HCI has seen at those two facilities?
GLORIOSO: Well remember those two facilities are just starting as a faith-based, they don’t have a track record. Hillsborough has a very good track record. It was founded in 2004 and they’ve succeeded. They’ve got a successful formula that should be duplicated throughout the state and possibly throughout the country.
But the other thing they have that’s very hard to get and that’s your huge volunteer base. To get people to come there on a daily basis to work with these individuals and help turn them and I applaud all the volunteers in the Hillsborough Correctional Institution that have worked many, many hours and have spent many hours of their lives to try to help others.
That base will be very hard to find I don’t care where you are. I think the people in our area are just unique, they’re talented, successful people who now have time to help others and so that’s what they’re doing. So, I think it’s going to be harder to find that base.
Rep. Glorioso said if the final budget bill does not include specific language that requires the closure of HCI, then he'll make a plea to the governor to keep the facility open and allow it to expand which would cut-down the costs and provide spots for women on the waiting list to get into HCI.