Havana, Florida- August 13, 2012
Inmates that have been behind bars usually find it difficult to assimilate back into society. Now, the Department of Corrections is finding ways to make that adjustment easier.
Said Eric Smallridge, an inmate at the Tallahassee Work Release Center: "Allowing people to get education and training is the key factor to for a successful re-entry."
In 2002, he was arrested after a DUI accident that killed two girls.
"You don't plan on throwing your whole life's work away," said Smallridge.
The Department of Corrections held a town hall meeting at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Havana that highlighted some of the education and tools the state gives to those who have served their time, including completion of a GED and vocational skills to earn a job after prison.
Said Ken Tucker, Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections: "This strategy basically works on the premise that the re-entry process starts the day they arrive at prison."
The goal is to make sure those released don't return. Almost a third of inmates who finish their sentence end up back behind bars.
"And it's for the benefit not only for the individuals but its best for the state of Florida as well," said Senator Bill Montford.
"If they're given an opportunity to--while incarcerated--to learn something new and to realize that there is a better way of life then I think a lot of the time's they'll go out and pursue that."
Tonight's town hall event hosted about 300 community leaders, politicians, and correction officers from surrounding big bend counties.
Officials want the community to know that everyone needs to work together as a team to allow these former inmates every opportunity to become successful after serving time.