The Northwest Florida Re-Entry Task Force Makes
Positive Impact on Community
PENSACOLA, FLA. - A community partnership in Northwest Florida has helped improve services to offenders who are released from prison with the ultimate goal of increasing public safety and strengthening families by reducing recidivism. The Northwest Florida Re-Entry Task Force began as a pilot project in 2009 and includes community members from the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, local law enforcement, behavioral and mental health facilities, faith-based organizations and veterans.
“Nearly two-thirds of released state prisoners are expected to be rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release,” said Connie Bookman Chairperson of the Re-Entry Task Force and Executive Director of Pathways For Change. “The Task Force was created to prevent ex-offenders from returning to criminal activity and increase the likelihood that they will become productive citizens who can make a positive contribution in our Northwest Florida communities.”
The task force has made significant strides to help returning offenders overcome the challenges of joblessness, lack of marketable job skills, issues of homelessness, illiteracy, substance use or mental health problems. Recently the group created a “Job Readiness” curriculum that will be packaged and freely given to all state and local correctional facilities for use with offenders 100 days prior to release and hosted a Job Fair for 80 re-entering ex-offenders with mock interviews by employers such as Walmart, Waffle House, Cox Communications and other local businesses.
A Family Ties event was also hosted to train 100 law enforcement officers, lawyers, counselors, teachers and other professionals on positive ways to interact with children of incarcerated parents.
The children and families component of the task force is especially important because of the great impact on children of incarcerated parents.
“It weakens ties among family members,” said Janice Thomas Circuit 1 Administrator for the Department of Children and Families. “The long term generational effects on families where imprisonment is the norm and law-abiding role models are absent are difficult to measure but undoubtedly exist.”
The task force meets at noon on every 3rd Thursday at the Blanchard Judicial Center in downtown Pensacola to develop effective measures to lower the recidivism rate in Northwest Florida and strengthen families affected.