Guests of the Broward jail system be forewarned:
You’re not wanted back.
Tackling a problem that has plagued the local jail system for decades — keeping inmates from coming back after they’ve been released — county leaders announced a new program Tuesday.
It’s called The Revival Project, and it consists of 22 motivational and educational video segments that will be shown to select inmates in Broward jails.
The hope is the videos will encourage the inmates to start planning for life outside of jail, setting goals, networking and becoming “CEO of your own reentry plan,” said Broward County Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, who presides over the county’s mental health court.
“I hope every single one of our inmates takes advantage of The Revival Project,” Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti said, later adding. “We don’t want you back.”
The issue of crowded jails and prisons, often holding people who have been there before, isn’t exclusive to Broward or Florida, although both the state and the county have gotten their share of attention for the issue.
It wasn’t until 1993 that Broward County settled an inmate lawsuit by promising, among several things, to guarantee better conditions at its jails and stick to a population cap.
Earlier this year, a national report pointed out that the time spent behind bars by prisoners in Florida had more than doubled in the past decade, a growth spurt higher than any other state.
Did all those people in prison make Floridians safer? The report’s authors said that, to some extent, longer prison sentences increased safety. But overall, the strategy had reached a “tipping point,” with more incarceration having little effect on public safety.
The report, done by the Pew Center on the States, also pointed out that, in the past decade, new supervision programs had been created to help break the cycle of people repeating their crimes.
Adding to the pressure to reduce jail and prison populations is the economy. With local and state budgets floundering and every social service being cut, the amount of money it takes to keep so many people behind bars has gotten even more scrutiny.
The Revival Project will be exclusively in Broward jails starting on Dec. 1. It will be voluntary for inmates who want to participate. It won’t be available to those in prison, who generally have committed more violent crimes.
The plan is to use videos combined with the help already offered by BSO’s Day Reporting and Re-Entry Division, which works with offenders to help them transition back into the community while also monitoring their activity. The goal is to prepare former inmates to thrive after they are released — and not to commit more crimes.
Lerner-Wren said they will track which inmates see the videos and how they do afterward to see what works and what doesn’t so they can change the program to make it even better.
The videos have been a passion project for Lerner-Wren, who said she’s been working on them for two years. She hopes that, over time and with success, the videos can expand to other facilities.
Lerner-Wren and Lamberti admit the program isn’t for all offenders, especially those with histories of violence. But there are nonviolent offenders who can turn their lives around, but first they need the right skills to do so.
Lerner-Wren spoke about her experience presiding over Broward’s mental health court, which focuses specifically on mentally ill defendants. The court focuses on getting them the treatment they need so they aren’t a danger, as opposed to jail time.
“We see The Revival Project as a natural extension of this work,” Lerner-Wren said.