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A cost-efficient opportunity

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

To the editor,

Last year, while the present economic crises forced cuts to government funding of essential services, the Florida taxpayers had to fund $280 million in new prison bed construction. Annual operating cost is in addition to that figure.

As Florida was forced, because of reduced tax revenues, to cut critical areas like education and health care services, we find ourselves having to build costly prison beds to keep up with our climbing prison population.

There are certainly many points of opportunity to reduce the rising number of inmates and the crimes they commit.

One cost-efficient opportunity point is to help kids who have committed crimes redirect their lives and develop into responsible, productive citizens instead of inmates and criminals. Every kid that rehabilitates and does not re-offend saves the state huge dollars in crime and incarceration expense. Tough financial times call for tough funding decisions.

I believe Florida must invest our stressed tax dollars in redirecting troubled youth rather than spending most of our desperately needed public resources on confining them. Florida has many effective programs in the prevention and intervention part of Florida’s juvenile justice system under the categories of prevention, day treatment and non-secure residential programming.

If limited funding forces a choice between letting one non-violent adult out of prison early or putting one teenager who is committing non-violent crimes into a program, helping him or her develop into a responsible, productive citizen for the rest of their life, what choice would you choose? The cost-effective and public safety choice is to spend our dollars at the opportunity point and keep a troubled teenager from becoming an adult criminal.

O.B. Stander

President & CEO, Associated Marine Institutes

Tampa, Fla.