Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Florida Department of Corrections asks Legislature to Abolish all Substance Abuse Programs

The Legislature has requested that the Department of Corrections propose an additional cut of $213 million (10% reduction) from its budget without eliminating any prison beds. The Department of Corrections is poised to recommend tomorrow the elimination of all $37 million in existing correctional substance abuse programs to meet this goal. In addition, Secretary McNeil will also be recommending the elimination of community-based faith initiatives, pre-trial intervention programs, and drug court funding. A 10% cut in agency administration and the loss of over 300 security staff and 350 probation staff are also on the potential cut list. Because institutions cannot be closed, the remaining option is for the Department of Corrections to decimate probation and eliminate services.

Elimination of these services will only be prevented if each and every correctional substance abuse provider takes action today. The following action steps are recommended:
• Come to Tallahassee tomorrow and Thursday to attend the appropriations hearings and meet with legislators. Plan to return next week for the appropriations meetings. The budget will be complete by next Friday, March 28. There is very little time for your voice to be heard. (Schedule of Appropriations Meetings at end of Alert).
• Prepare a one page description of the impact of such cuts on your community, local public safety efforts, and your program. Report the number of staff that will be terminated and the fiscal impact on the community. Use local data and the data we have supplied to calculate the additional cost of new prison beds as a result of the elimination of your services
• Call the media today. Alert them to this possibility. Ask them to cover the story in Tallahassee tomorrow and to write a local impact statement as soon as possible. If you do not know the reporters, ask for the reporter that covers crime stories. Have prepared for them a success story, how your program benefited an offender and how this person is now a tax paying citizen.
• Call judges, sheriffs, state attorneys, and other influential community members. Ask them to make a call today to key legislators to argue for no cuts to substance abuse programs

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