The House passed a bill Friday authorizing county prisons to provide educational services to inmates via contracts with local state colleges.
Newberry Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons shepherded the bill as the proposal’s companion sponsor.
The House passed the bill (SB 722) unanimously. It now awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis’ consideration.
“This bill will enable those folks that have made some big mistakes, that have dug holes that (are) very difficult to get out of because they don’t have that skill set and they don’t have that education,” Clemons said.
Under the bill, a jail may contract to provide educational, career or vocational training to inmates.
Proponents of the bill, including Miami Democratic Rep. James Bush III, believe such training will boost an inmate’s chances for success in the workforce.
According to the Department of Corrections, inmates who participate in such programs are 25% less likely to return to jail than inmates who do not. What’s more, DOC reports that for “every grade-level increase achieved, a student’s likelihood of recidivism decreases by three percent.”
Bush stood alongside Clemons and was the only lawmaker to speak on the bill. Gainesville Republican Rep. Keith Perry is the Senate bill sponsor.
Bush has served in prison ministry for over 30 years. He contended the bill is a big “first step” toward prison reform.
“This is not a sprint,” Bush said. “This is a marathon. Every year we have to come back and continue to work on making sure that we do what is necessary to help the inmates return back to their community.”
Perry’s proposal enjoyed bipartisan support through the legislative process. To date, it has yet to garner a single opposing vote.
He also is sponsoring a measure that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record.
The Education for Inmates bill is effective July 1, 2022 if signed into law.