Skip navigation

Articles by Josh Salman

Wasted Minds: Prisoners Languish in Florida Prisons with Little Access to Education

by Ryan McKinnon and Josh Salman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune / GateHouse Media

Dade Correctional Institution employs one teacher for a population of 1,500 men – and just 16 prisoners have earned GED diplomas there over the past four years.

Union Correctional Institution, a North Florida prison with a capacity of nearly 2,200, graduated only nine prisoners during that time.

Century Correctional Institution in the Panhandle went years on end without awarding a single educational certificate.

Prisons have instead emphasized warehousing, creating an environment where prisoner idleness, surging staff turnover and a lack of incentives for good behavior have engendered violence.

“Education is so important in terms of trying to break cycles like poverty and jail sentences,” said Larry Ahern, a former Republican state representative from Pinellas County. “You can’t keep putting people behind bars and not do anything to help them on the inside.”

Nearly 55,000 offenders across Florida will walk out of state prisons during the next five years.

Many will be worse off than when they went in.

The nation’s third largest prison system offers virtually no meaningful education to prisoners, despite overwhelming evidence that it is the strongest antidote to recidivism.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune and parent company GateHouse ...