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Faith-Based Corrections

July 7th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Facing billions of dollars in construction costs for new prisons, the state is trying to reduce recidivism at Wakulla Correctional Institute south of Tallahassee. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, part of what makes this prison different is that every inmate volunteered to be here.

Among the 1800 inmates at Wakulla Correctional Institute, are men serving life and others just a few years. Each of them volunteered to be here.

This is one of four faith-based prisons in Florida. On this morning, several hundred inmates are participating in a bible study led by a volunteer minister.

Chaplain Stephen Fox says whether an inmate is serving life or just a few years, its never too late to change direction.

My grandmother used to say years back, that if you throw enough mud on the walls, some of its bound to stick, Fox said. So we try to give them as much exposure to different classes, different programs. Because we never know whats going to change a person.

There is also a class on how to operate a construction company, or open a janitorial business. The class is as much about anger management as anything else.

If you have a problem with someone else, you have to work on that, Howard Pepper, inmate instructor, said.

These inmates are all instructors. They teach a core class on business. Jeff Botsford is a former bank president who is doing 7 years.

What is a man going to do when he gets out of prison? Starting his own small business is something that is viable, that can be done, Botsford said. So we teach the inmates how to build a business plan.

At any given time there are about 5,000 inmates on the waiting list, trying to get into one of four faith-based prisons in Florida.

All of the books, bibles and everything else that makes this prison different were all donated by volunteers who give not only money but their time.

Statistics are expected later this year on whether faith based prisons are actually reducing recidivism. If you are interested in helping donate money or materials, go to correctionsfoundation.org, click contribute, and specify your gift go to Wakulla CI.

All of the books, bibles and everything else that makes this prison different were all donated by volunteers who give not only money but their time.

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