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Sheriff says proposed budget cuts threaten rehabilitation program

5:40 AM, Jul 19, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Another $6 million dollars in proposed budget cuts for the Sheriff's Department could mean a big hole in staffing.

Sheriff John Rutherford said the additional money could amount to 95 positions being eliminated, as well as cutting a rehabilitation facility in Jacksonville. Those 95 positions are on top of the 319 already on the chopping block for JSO.

Now graduates and supporters of that rehabilitation facility are trying to save it.

"Well, I'd be dead. There's no doubt, I'd be dead," said Holly, a volunteer with the Bridge the Gap program, which partners with the Community Transition Center in Jacksonville.  

Relapsing 3 times over the past decade, Holly says the only reason she finally made it through were support programs like the Community Transition Center that work to rehabilitate inmates at the Duval County Jail.

"I had to move back to Jacksonville from Mississippi and start my life over again at 50 years old. That was a scary thing. And if it weren't for programs like this and the support system, it's made a great difference in my life," she said.

So now, she wants to give back.

For the past 5 years she has volunteered with the Center.

It's a 300 bed building in downtown Jacksonville that serves as an alternate holding facility for convicted criminals near the end of their sentence.

The City didn't return our phone calls regarding how much it costs to put each person through the center, but on their website, the center says they save the taxpayers money through inmate community service.

Holly helps female inmates enroll in sobriety programs, find housing and stability when they leave jail.

"It's a program that teaches people how to change their lives and how to become responsible and productive members of society and tax payers. Tax payers is what the bottom line is," she said.

Holly says the long term benefits of the program should outweigh any temporary savings the city would get by cutting it.

And for the women who participate, she says you can't put a dollar amount on that.

"I don't want to see these girls go out and die, that's what it's going to amount to. A lot of them will die," she said.

Graduates of the CTC program plan to speak with City Council at their meeting next Tuesday about the importance of the program.



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