Goodwill work release center in Largo closed - WFLA News Channel 8

Goodwill work release center in Largo closed

Posted: Updated:
LARGO, FL (WFLA) -

Florida Department of Corrections terminated a contract with Goodwill Industries Suncoast and removed all the inmates from its Largo work release center Friday morning, the department representatives told us.

The department made this decision based on the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report, according to the statement DOC issued. PCSO deputies conducted surveillance of inmates at the Largo center.

News Channel 8's Josh Thomas reported on Thursday the investigation revealed that inmates leave the facility, hide things in the bushes and even conduct hand-to-hand transactions with outsiders.

Related story: 06/27/2013 Pinellas Sheriff calls for halfway house to close

PCSO Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said about the Largo center, "The inmates would leave the facility, they would go up and down US 19, and behind businesses, and they had stuff buried under bushes, and stuff under mulch and stuff behind a variety of businesses."

The DOC statement also mentioned an inaccurate inmate count conducted by Goodwill which allowed an escaped inmate to go undetected for more than three hours.

DOC representatives considered these deficiencies to constitute a real and immediate threat to public safety.

They removed all the inmates form the Largo center at 4 a.m. Friday and sent a notice out to Goodwill about the contract termination, according to the statement.

Friday evening, the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, Deborah A. Passerini, issued a written response, which is as follows:

"We are disappointed by the decision to shut down our Largo facility.

Goodwill re-entry centers are designed to help those Floridians who've been in prison make a successful transition back into society. We do this as a way to serve our communities and help those who have been incarcerated find jobs once they are released. Goodwill helped pioneer work release more than 50 years ago and these programs work. Multiple studies have shown that work release programs significantly reduce the rates of recidivism.

We would like to clarify the timeline regarding the offender escape that was mentioned in the news. Our surveillance shows the offender left the facility at 12:40 a.m. We discovered he was not in his bed at 4:16 a.m. We then immediately searched the facility and completed that search at 4:52 a.m. At that point, we called the Department of Corrections first, which we are required to do. We then made a series of additional calls, also required, and once those calls were complete, we called the Sheriff's office at 5:47 a.m. At 5:50 a.m. Goodwill staff confronted individuals in a white vehicle who were found to be from the Sheriff's office. We then continued to work closely with all authorities until the offender was arrested.

Goodwill does great work to help people in our community. Day in and day out, we are focused on our mission, which is to help people achieve their full potential through the dignity and power of work."

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