For a brief time last week, it appeared Hillsborough Correctional Institution (HCI), the women’s faith-and-character based prison set for closure, would receive a reprieve. But reports surfaced over the weekend, HCI is back on the chopping block.
Inmates, staff and volunteers at HCI successfully kept the Department of Corrections from closing down the 35-year-old facility last year. And, it appeared they would do it again this budget year when both the House and Senate set aside $2 million for needed repairs.
But over the weekend, a joint house and senate budget committee got rid of the $2 million appropriation. A founding HCI volunteer, Nancy Williams, said she was told Sen. JD Alexander’s committee axed the HCI funding because Tampa Bay senators voted against privatizing prisons.
“One thing that came down was that HCI was a payback,” Williams said during a Monday afternoon phone interview where she didn't want the politics to obscure who really loses. “They’re not going to hurt the senators, they’re going to hurt the ladies whose lives are being changed because of a faith-character facility like ours.”
Williams said about 100 inmates have filed grievances with the DOC because no other women’s facilities offer the same programs and services that are available at HCI. Yet, there are three men’s prisons that do.
And Williams said the volunteers are mounting a telephone and email campaign focused on the governor to save the only women’s prison in the state dedicated solely to faith-and-character based programs.
The HCI inmates are set to be transferred to the large women’s prison at Lowell Correctional or to Hernando Correctional that also houses youth offenders. Neither of those facilities is set up solely for faith-and-character based programs and neither Lowell nor Hernando has the number of volunteers and mentors that are active at HCI.