The Future of Inmates and Education

Florida recently just passed a bill which will direct educational institutes and their resources into the hands of correctional facilities for inmates for practical uses if they are 2 years or less from completing their sentence. Inmates will be able to not only learn useful vocational skills to integrate into society once they finish their sentencing but have the ability to graduate with a GED while they carry out the rest of their sentencing. House Bill 1201/ Senate Bill 1318 states.

A county or department of correction is authorized to contract with a district school board, the Florida Virtual School, or charter school to provide educational services in the Correction Educational Program to its inmates.

The educational services may include educational, career, or vocational. (Florida House of Representatives, 2018)

House Bill 1201 removed a barrier in which funding from the postsecondary workforce program—which is a program where individuals can participate and receive vocational training and learn trade skills to use in the workforce immediately—was prohibited to be allocated towards the education program for inmates in Florida.

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HB 1201 was first introduced by Representatives Edwards-Walpole, Pritchett, Ahern, and Lee into the legislation process in January of 2018. The bill basically authorizes counties to contract departments—educational, career, and/ or vocational—of how the training should be used and what programs to initiate.

The bill itself made it rapidly through the legislation process compared to others which may take many months and even possible multiple legislation sessions in order for it to be regarded as a promising bill signed into law.

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The Florida House and Senate meet for 60 days on the first week of every Tuesday on March. However, before getting to the desk of Governor Rick Scott for signing, HB 1201 took a process which all bills when first introduced must take. It was first looked upon by committees initially going through the criminal Justice Subcommittee, education committee, judiciary committee, and placed on a special calendar—which just places the bill on the floor for it to be read sitting at the house speakers table—finally it was voted through by house and senate, and signed by Governor Scott into law. The entire process took a total of 2 ½ months. The bill was initiated on July 1st, 2018.

In 2018 the Florida legislature was the most sluggish in the past two-decades. There were a total of 196 bills passed in 2018, compared to the late 90’s and early 00’s where bills that were passed reached on average 500-800 bills (Taylor, 2018, para. 2). HB 1201 was one of the few bills that passed and not only passed but had the full support from both Republicans and Democrats. This is a rare event in which both parties are able to come to table and be able to pass something that benefits those in unfortunate events and circumstances during this political climate. Since the GOP party has taken the lead role in legislation in 1998, bills passing have gradually been suffocating and dying within the committees and subcommittees. A committee and subcommittee are where legislation is compared and contrasted by legislators which are assigned by their respective parties. Committees distribute its members among subcommittees which further evaluate bills before passing it into committees.

The final votes that were counted from the House was 115-0 and 5 no votes and 37-0 in the Senate. Legislators saw this bill as one that will be a bright investment into society and the economy in the long haul in Florida. According to Center for American Progress, the long –term economic benefit will outweigh the short-term effects it has on taxpayers. In 2015 average cost for each inmate in Florida is $19,069 (Prison Spending in 2015, 2015). It has gone up by a total of 7% and projecting to increase in the upcoming years. There seems to be a growing trend with the budget for prisons around the state and its inmates. If we were to look at the population of the elderly in the prison system they make up only one-third of the inmate population in Florida. Moreover, a recent report from local news station WFTV in Orlando which interviewed the Florida Department of Corrections and the issue of housing of elderly inmates.

Lawmakers understand that if HB 1201 is to play out correctly and implement the policy changes it intends to, this will be a win-win for all Floridians. If done correctly, this will keep inmates progressively being able to adjust to societal changes and climb the social and economic ladder once they are free from imprisonment, keep taxpayers from paying prison cost that continues to rise, and being able to boost the state economy in the coming future. This will require for tax payers to pay the front of this new law in the beginning years and later being able to reap the benefit as a whole.

This will put the burden on counties and districts on how funds will be used, implemented within the prisons, who to contract to provide service learning to the inmates, and if counties will be for using taxpayer’s money to educate inmates. This may cause many problems that are unforeseeable in the near and far future for county board members and school board members alike. Will they be able to switch public perception t if they live in a more conservative area? What if educating inmates has no viable or real impact on the economy for Florida as a whole? What if inmates aren’t able to find jobs once they are out and be able to adjust to societal norms? These are all important questions in which departments and board members will be facing as the funding for state education within prisons are be funneled through their respected counties.

As of right now, lawmakers and institutions who were fighting for prison reform around the state are celebrating on passing a bill into law that will bring some good into prisons. The overall impact this will have on individuals is yet to be seen in Florida for another 5-10 years. However, the outcome has been seen throughout other regions of the United States and across the globe where political leaders took the initiative of investing into prison reform. Still the fact remains the United States still imprisons its population by a huge margin compared to other countries around the world. Florida falls at one of the lowest in funding its prisons and its inmates. Many will take HB 1201 which may still grant issues county to county, however, seeing the push for prison reform is an initiative many Floridians can be on board with as seen with the unanimous votes by both parties at Tallahassee.

Bills get passed into law in Florida every year. However, rarely do we see bills such as House Bill 1201/ Senate Bill 1381 that both parties are able agree upon with any opposition, run as smooth as it did, and be able to present itself at a timely manner to the Governor’s desk. This is a small step towards responsible and good reform within our prison system.

Many inmates who are imprisoned today are completing sentences that are non-violent and are drug related crimes. Florida being one of the harshest states for sentencing for drug-related crimes, for example if an individual is to be found guilty with the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana the individual may face up $5000 in fines and a five year prison sentence (Clark, 2016). Selling within 1,000ft of school, college, or park can send an individual to prison for more than 15 years and a fine of $10,000. Now I’m not advocating for the legalization of marijuana or taking the stance on pro/against marijuana, but this is just one small example in which Florida legislators are ignoring the real implications of outdated law that have real life impact on people within the system who get caught up on crimes such as the possession of marijuana and nonviolent crimes, they face harsh sentencing. The burden is felt by taxpayers for a long time as we can see from the example I just stated. Even after Amendment 2 passed in 2017 which states

The purpose was to expand the number of patients who could access marijuana. In 2014, Florida legislators passed a measure to offer a non-euphoric strain of medical cannabis low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gets you high, but rich in cannabidiol, which has been found to help with seizures. The measure, called the 'Charlotte's Web' bill, was mostly aimed at helping patients with epilepsy and similar, specific conditions. (Cordiero, 2018)

The overwhelming support for this amendment was sent to the halls of Tallahassee with a 71% support from voters that election year, yet legislators are still tip toeing around the effort in prison reform, sentencing, and over law change for criminal offense.

Many Floridians understand that the implication of having someone locked up for 15 years and paying for them vs having reasonable laws passed, investing in rehabilitation and recreational centers for nonviolent criminals. The former will cost families in Florida hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

For now, HB 1201 will have to do. It is a right step towards the future of families and individuals alike. Educating and equipping inmates will be a benefit for the long haul. There are countless of businesses here in Florida who understand that a nonviolent crime should not be the end of the line for you and should not be a burden for you to move on with your life, especially once you have served your time for the punishment. Legislators must be able to recognize this as well.

Educating prisoners before they are released is a sensible act. There are countless of research which have been done all over the world that shows that if we are able to invest in our prison system at the bare minimum and use recreational activities and inform inmates that they are able to better themselves while they complete their sentencing and upon completion be able to enter into society with easier access to jobs to help them and their families.

Educating our prisoners here in Florida will be a benefit for all. As I stated earlier, it will be lesser load for individuals across the state when it comes to taxes, inmates who are able to find jobs when they get out will able to contribute to the economy. The contributions from countless of former inmates will be a huge, as Florida already has a booming economy from tourists from all over.

House Bill 1201 also shows a great sign in giving counties and districts to home grow in a way the needs they are looking for. For instance, in Osceola and Polk County there is a need for wielders and those to work in rural areas (vs.) in Orange County, there is a need for those in the construction industry which we know is a whole branch of different jobs, as the I-4 project and city of Orlando and neighboring cities look to expand. The building of houses are booming here in Florida with the population increasing due to the influx of the Puerto Rican population being displaced from Hurricane Maria, there will be need for trade skills all over state but more in particular in Central Florida. This bill has the potential of helping individuals create businesses with the skills they learn within correctional facilities.

Another great incentive this may have on Floridians is the rid of repeat offenders. As of now, Florida legislators have very little data on how many actual repeat offenders there are according the chair of Judiciary Committee Rep. Chris Sprowls- R- Palm Beach (Miami Herald, 2018). However, there are reports which have been obtained and submitted by the Crime and Justice Institute in 2017 there are a reported 85% of former inmates who repeat crimes to receive only harsher sentencing which causes a cycle and overall impact on communities especially those of the minority community. According to the most recent census in 2010, Blacks are overrepresented in Florida’s prison population, in total they make up 46% of the prison population and only making up 16% of the state population.

While Whites are underrepresented in the prison population, they make up only 41% of the prison population and 58% of the state’s population. Latinos hold at 23% of the state population and 14% of the prison population (Prison Policy Intiative, 2010). This bill is the hope in which may be able to slow down the repeat offenders, the simple idea is that if they are able to graduate with something that will be useful in the real world and contribute to the economy that they will feel a sense of individualism and importance. Basically, they have more to lose than gain by committing a crime. If you are able to obtain a steady income, buy a home, start a family or be able to provide for your family, and invest into your community and other areas (vs) leaving prison as an outsider with no means of providing for yourself or just in general having a more than difficult time of finding a job to help prop you up in society. Many times, if inmates are able to find jobs these jobs are very low skilled, low paid, and have harsh working conditions.

Inmates are not treated fairly by many, but if they come out ready to work and contribute with to society and if government is able to help provide skills to equip to do so businesses and the state will benefit as a whole. If house bill 1201 was to fail on the other hand, this can be a stepping stone to help revitalized and go back to the drawing board to redo our mistakes, and recreate many bills that be beneficial to inmates who at the end of day are human beings. To treat them any less is a disservice to our community.

Funding for House Bill 1201 as of right now will be allocated through counties and taken up by taxpayers at their respected districts. The implication is for a long term output, many will see it as investments into the lost or those who will not change and is a complete waste of money. However, I say why not try to invest into those who made mistakes, especially to those with a non-prior record and nonviolent crimes. Many of us, who were to experience what many former and current inmates face on a daily basis, would only hope that someone would help or make it easier to get back into the step of things. It is a very low percentage of those who commit crimes just for the fun of it; many are facing financial burdens, and are cycled through the life of crime at a very young age because of what their communities are facing. House Bill 1201 is an investment into the future of Florida, if the economy was to boom massively and we saw the prison population decline, all which are important and would be great. However, the implications it has on individuals and families will be felt through generations. As we will see a more unity within families, people attending higher education at a higher rate, and those who were heading down the path of crime are now contributing and are part of society as you and I.


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  11. House of Representatives Staff analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2018, from
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  14. politics/article200486049.html
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  17. The Florida House of Representatives 2018 regular session HB 1201 passage Third Reading. (n.d). Retrieved November 10, 2018, from
  18. с
Updated: Dec 09, 2021
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The Future of Inmates and Education. (2021, Dec 09). Retrieved from

The Future of Inmates and Education essay
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