Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jan 2002
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2002 The Miami Herald
Author: Carol Marbin Miller
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Cuts Affect Dade, Broward, Prisons

In a state where nearly a third of all crimes are drug-related, the 
Department of Corrections has approved a budget cut that will eliminate the 
bulk of drug treatment among inmates and greatly reduce the state's program 
to help drug addicts outside the prison system.

The cuts -- expected to save Florida taxpayers $13 million this fiscal year 
- -- will eliminate in-house drug treatment programs at all but four of 
Florida's 55 major prisons, said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the 
Corrections Department in Tallahassee.

The cuts also will reduce by 34 percent the number of beds available to 
treat drug addicts at 20 residential treatment programs throughout the state.

Nearly one in four prisoners in Florida are treated for substance abuse. 
After the cuts, only informal efforts such as Alcoholics Anonymous and 
Narcotics Anonymous will remain in 51 of the state's major prisons.

"Make no mistake: When we get done crunching the numbers, the bottom line 
will be human lives will be lost or go unrepaired, and misery will be 
spread from generation to generation," said Howard Finkelstein, Broward 
County's chief assistant public defender, who battled drug addiction 
himself 14 years ago.

"These cuts to substance abuse programs, especially those inside prison, 
probably will affect some inmates," Ivey added.

The cuts will affect eight drug treatment programs each in Broward and 
Miami-Dade counties. Six residential programs in South Florida -- three 
each in Miami-Dade and Broward -- will lose a total of 94 beds in the 
belt-tightening; in most programs, beds remain full year-round. The 
agencies also will be paid 10 percent less for services than their 
contracts allowed.

An additional nine outpatient programs -- five in Miami-Dade and four in 
Broward -- will lose funds, and a treatment center at Broward County's 
Hollywood Work Release Center, where inmates are allowed to hold outside 
jobs, will see cuts.

Before the cuts, $41 million of the Department of Corrections' $1.3 billion 
annual budget was spent on treating drug and alcohol addiction problems; 
$11.3 million went to treatment programs in the state prisons. The cuts 
will trim $3.3 million from residential programs, $2.4 million from 
outpatient programs and $7.5 million from in-prison programs.

The number of beds available in community-based drug treatment centers 
statewide will drop from 1,900 to 1,250, Ivey said.

Prison Problem

Substance abuse is an intractable problem among the prison population. For 
fiscal year 2000-01, for example, 7,300 of the 25,731 men and women who 
entered the prison system had an alcohol or drug problem, corrections 
records show.

For each of the last 10 years, more inmates have been admitted for drug 
offenses than any other charge. Last year, nearly 29 percent of those who 
entered Florida prisons had been convicted of drug offenses.

In South Florida and other urban areas, drug courts and community diversion 
programs offer judges the alternative of crafting a treatment program 
rather than simply incarcerating generally nonviolent offenders.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeffrey Rosinek presides over the county's Drug 
Court, which in 1989 became the first such project in the country.

He said the number of inmates with a drug problem -- though not necessarily 
a drug charge -- is actually far higher than one in three. Seventy percent 
of Florida inmates are arrested for offenses related to their drug 
addiction, such as burglary or theft, he said.

Looking Ahead

Prison authorities are so concerned about the budget cuts' potential 
effects that they asked Gov. Jeb Bush to restore $5 million of the $7.5 
million for next year's budget, Ivey said. The cuts were ordered in 
mid-January as part of an effort to trim $1 billion from the current 
budget. They take effect Nov. 1.

For fiscal 2000-01, 17,000 of the prison system's total population of 
72,000 inmates were participating in drug treatment programs.

An additional 32,640 offenders received treatment in either residential or 
outpatient community programs outside prison, according to the Corrections 
Department's recently released annual report.

The programs appear to work. Of offenders who successfully completed a 
substance abuse program outside the prison system in fiscal 1998-99, 77.5 
percent remained out of prison after two years. Of the offenders who 
completed drug treatment programs in locked facilities, 70.5 percent stayed 
out of prison, the annual report says.

In Miami-Dade Drug Court, the success rate has been even more impressive, 
Judge Rosinek said. Among successful graduates of the program, only 6 
percent return to court on additional charges.

The court has been so successful that all but one of the county's 20 
criminal judges have agreed to embrace an expanded effort in which drug 
defendants return to court every month to be monitored by their presiding 
judge. The cuts could jeopardize both the monitoring effort and the drug 
court's effectiveness, Rosinek said.

In The Neighborhood

"How foolish, how absolutely foolish," Rosinek said. "Most of these people 
are coming back to the community; they're coming back home. They'll be in 
my neighborhood; they'll be in your neighborhood.

"The question is: How are they coming home? Will they be coming back in 
worse shape than they left? . . . Will they still be addicted?"

 From her perch on the bench of Broward County's Mental Health Court, 
County Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren has seen treatment efforts turn lives 
around. She doesn't need statistics to be convinced.

"As a judge who relies on community-based resources very, very heavily, I 
can tell you the elimination of these mental health and drug treatment beds 
will be disastrous," Lerner-Wren said.


Kenyatta Myles, a 31-year-old Lauderhill man getting treatment at the House 
of Hope in Fort Lauderdale, said the program is enabling him to turn his 
life around after many years of drug addiction.

Myles was arrested smoking crack cocaine in a parking lot at 8 a.m. Instead 
of heading to prison, he was ordered to live at House of Hope and complete 
a substance abuse program. Without the opportunity, Myles said, he would be 
"sitting in jail, playing cards and watching TV."

"So far, this is helping me rebuild my life, and my relationship with my 
son," said Myles, a cosmetologist. "My wife started talking to me. My 
family is coming back into my life. I had burned a lot of bridges. And I'm 
looking at myself, too, a lot of the stuff I had been doing wrong that I 
needed to change."

"I'm not a bad person," said Myles, who has been arrested twice, for drug 
possession and petty theft. "I don't believe I'd kill or shoot anybody. 
Jail is not for people who have a sickness."
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