Dear Editor,

Did you know the Florida Legislature has cut $28 million from the Florida State budget for badly needed substance abuse and mental health programs, and has eliminated prisoner re-entry and work-release services that prepare inmates for life outside of prison?

I’ve been working on the District-level of United Methodist Women, and we are very concerned that our country has the highest rate of incarcerations in the world! Our prison population has increased from 300,000 prisoners in the early 1900’s to 2.3 million today. On our District Board, several women have had family members in prison. One of our members received a call from a family friend whose son is in prison. The friend was worried about the re-entry and work-release programs not being funded for her son when he is released.

We need reform in our sentencing laws. Mary Ellen Klas of The Tampa Bay Times wrote a very informative article on May 6 entitled “Florida Prisons Cut Programs to Cover $28 million Deficit.” Mary Ellen writes: Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that writes the prison budget, “is convinced the state neither has the will nor the capacity to afford its prison population of 96,000 and has been on a mission to reform sentencing laws that aim to reduce the number of offenders in the system and provide more treatment and diversion alternatives to non-violent offenders.” The proposals passed the Senate but were stopped in the House. Brandes said the solution will take ‘courage.’

We need to have courage—whatever your political party, faith or race. Call your legislators: Senator Bill Montford (850-487-5003), Assistants: Melissa Durham, Varna Mitchell and Taylor Peck, or Representative Halsey Beshears (850-717-5007). We must enter the arena if we truly care what happens to our fellow man—sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and children.

Ann Tison

Member

Gulf County Democratic Party