TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A prisoner rehab and nonprofit in south Florida is on the verge of closing as the state's Department of Corrections plans to use it instead for office space.
Critics say it isn't the right move for rehabbing prisoners and are afraid the same could happen to similar facilities around the state.
The Broward Bridges of America facility in south Florida helps prisoners re-enter society and hopefully keep themselves out of trouble in the future. It boasts a less than 10 percent recidivism rate for those who graduate from the program. It also provides drug abuse treatment.
Jerry Goodner said it changed his life. He now runs a housing assistance program.
"I celebrated 13 years clean and sober in November, and I don't know if I could say that if I had not been blessed with this program," Goodner said.
And it’s about to close. The Department of Corrections said in a statement that it is going to use the facilities for office space because of zoning issues.
The DOC's contract expires with the facility in mid-May. Bridges of America President Lori Constantino-Brown believes the program is being singled out.
"We feel that the men in this program are worth it," Constantino-Brown said. "We feel that there are too few programs like this for the thousands of men who are coming out and we feel that the department has made a mistake."
DOC promised it has a transition plan in place, but the plan is exempt from public record while litigation plays out between the state and Bridges of America. The plan includes work release, substance abuse treatment and probation services.
But letters from inmates posted on the Keep the Bridge Open website all paint a similar picture -- inmates are being told to pick a prison to go back to and there might not be any room in other transitional programs.
The contract of a similar facility in Bradenton will expire in July. Bridges of America fears the department will also close that facility later this year.