This just in from a teacher for the Florida Department of Corrections. Clearly, the FDC has serious problems in rehabilitating inmates for reentry with, at a bare minimum, a high school diploma. Additionally, the Florida prison system offers few vocational classes leading to licensure or certification as an electrician, mechanic, or plumber for example. Floridians can not expect the FDC to reduce recidivism if the environment is not conducive to helping inmates to become better people - education being the most obvious.
It was with great interest that I read the information about your book, "Getting Away with Murder." Since April 2015, I have been working as a teacher for Florida Department of Corrections. Despite having to overcome obstacles just to be allowed to go to school, I have been constantly impressed by the tenacity and desire some of my students have had to obtain their high school diplomas. I always encouraged my students to move forward and keep learning.
My supervisor and fellow teachers did not share my belief in the ability of the students and on Thursday, I was abruptly terminated from my job for bringing high school textbooks into the prison to be used in a classroom library since the prison library did not contain the material we needed. All of the books had been inspected by the officers and passed through metal detectors before entering the facility.
The warden at my facility told me that all the inmates were "evil" and spent their days thinking about what crimes they could commit that day. I was truly shocked and asked him why there was even an education program in place if his was the prevailing view. Although I did not witness the abuse that you saw, I firmly hold the belief that Florida Department of Corrections is not interested in helping inmates achieve a better lifestyle after their release but rather fosters the hope that they will re-offend and return to prison.
Thanks for your voice and the work that you do.
George's Note: This same teacher sent me a follow-up message:
Thanks for getting back to me about my post and also for forwarding these articles. You are right, some of the things I saw were awful, such as my students having to take breaks from their schoolwork to vomit because of the quality of food that they were served in the chow hall. Personally, I didn't witness any violence but one of my fellow teachers was fired shortly after he saw some officers take an inmate who was handcuffed on a stretcher out of camera range and then beaten about his head & body. Perhaps it was only a coincidence that this teacher was told to leave!
Please do feel free to blog my email. At the very least, I kept 20 students and two teaching assistants productive and engaged while they were incarcerated. I hope that they will be allowed to go back to school soon but also know how difficult it is to get qualified teachers to work in the prisons and also how slow the hiring process is with the state. Thanks for the work that you do.