Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings Tuesday urged state officials to reconsider their decision to close community-based transition centers.

Demings, a Democrat seeking re-election this fall, was responding to reports that the Florida Department of Corrections intends to close the Orlando Transition Center and others around that state, eliminating 688 community-based substance abuse treatment beds.

“Research indicates that this method of treatment has been effective at reducing recidivism for offending and drug use,” Demings said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Placing low-level offenders back behind prison walls increases the cost to Florida taxpayers of substance abuse treatment and incarceration of offenders. Secondly, a lower recidivism rate results in reduced crime. Conversely, an increase in recidivism results in increased crime.”

Demings’ opposition to the state plan echoes that made yesterday in press conference organized by Bridges of America, an Orlando-based nonprofit, and involving ex-cons and a bipartisan gathering of elected officials such as state Reps. Randolph Bracy, Victor Torres, Mike Miller, Eric Eisnaugle, and Bob Cortes.

Demings faces Republican Spike Hopkins in the Nov. 8 election.

Demings cited various studies and argued the “theraputic community-based” model has proven successful.

“It is for these reasons I urge the Florida Department of Corrections to rethink the proposed change,” he said.

In a press release issued last week, DOC Secretary Julie Jones said the intent was to use the money to treat more prisoners, rather than focus on those who need the least treatment, and that a pilot project called SPECTRUM would be used to look at new ways to do that.

“Our top priority is to prepare our inmate and offender populations for successful lives in the community where they serve as productive members of society,” she stated in the release.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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