Alachua County Commission moves forward with Re-entry Hub to support people leaving jail and prison

Community Support Services Director Claudia Tuck speaks to the County Commission on June 27


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At their June 27 meeting, the Alachua County Commission approved the next steps toward a proposed Re-entry Hub for people being released from jail or prison.

The board gave direction to staff about a year ago to have Court Services and Community Support Services look at ways to reallocate funding and services from focusing on incarceration to moving toward prevention and reducing recidivism, and the Re-entry Hub emerged from the resulting research as a nationwide practice. 

Move from work release to providing services and support

Community Support Services Director Claudia Tuck said the idea is to move from a work release format to a model that provides services and support to people leaving the jail and their family members; she said the Hub would “refocus on prevention of re-incarceration and address the criminogenic needs–which is basically concerns that, if left unresolved, could lead to increased risk of engaging in criminal activity–and to design services that prevent recidivism.”

Tuck said her department held four community engagement meetings that covered topics like leadership and decision-making, meaningful resources, barriers, trust, and the “need for humanness.” About 20 people participated in the meetings, including representatives from the Alachua County Library District, BOLD (Gainesville Police Department’s re-entry program), Community Spring, the Department of Corrections, GRACE Marketplace, the Library Partnership, Released, Southern Legal Counsel, and local pastors.

The recommendations included including people who were previously incarcerated; identifying needs; providing assistance with housing, transportation, and identification; teaching financial skills; providing access to food, clothing, and personal care items; mentoring; advocacy; education; life skill development; and assistance with searching for a job.

Tuck said her research showed that re-entry hubs that focus on employment “are the least successful of any re-entry center. If you don’t address the core issues, it’s not going to prevent recidivism.”

She said therapeutic services are also needed, including substance abuse counseling and cognitive therapy.

Tuck said the group felt strongly that the Hub “should not be in a government setting or on the jail grounds” and that “impacted individuals” should be involved in all aspects of the Hub. She said the group also emphasized that the Hub should be “low-barrier: there shouldn’t be a whole lot of things that someone needs to produce in order to get in there.” She said the Hub should connect people to “real jobs, sustainable jobs that provide income that they can maintain.” The Hub would be available to Alachua County residents and their family members that are released from jail or prison.

Staff recommendation

Staff recommended that the board allow staff to work with stakeholders to develop a Scope of Work for a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the operation of a Re-entry Hub, develop a budget, release the RFP, develop and monitor a contract for operating the Hub, and implement a pilot Hub if the RFP does not produce any responses.

In response to a question from Commissioner Ken Cornell, Tuck said the potential annual budget for the Hub is half a million dollars a year. Cornell said he wanted to see County staff and the community “coming up with something where we could monitor it for a couple of years. And then ultimately, I think, if it were a nonprofit that aligned with all of our values, that we could turn it over to them, not dissimilar to what we kind of started with the City and GRACE, and now GRACE is kind of contracted out by the City because they don’t really have that expertise.”

Cornell said the budgeted amount “hopefully is like an investment… in not having folks be admitted back into the jail and having the interactions with law enforcement reduced, and so that should help law enforcement’s budget.”

Commissioner Mary Alford said she had spoken with people who were formerly incarcerated, and they didn’t want a location anywhere near the jail; she suggested a downtown location. She said one person had suggested providing an incentive for people to visit the Hub upon their release from jail, such as bus passes or gift certificates to Walmart or to a grocery store. 

Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler made a motion to approve staff’s recommendation. 

Concerns about metrics and the budget

Chair Anna Prizzia asked about metrics and accountability, “to know that we were succeeding at re-entry… in terms of recidivism and things like that.”

Tuck said the RFP would require “a variety of metrics,” but she believed that the process should begin as soon as someone is booked into the jail, to “really be looking at who is going to need services when they come out. Because while everybody might benefit from touching the program, there’s a much smaller number that really need all the resources that could be offered through the program.” 

Prizzia said she was excited about the Hub but concerned about the budget because the board previously voted to reallocate $1.2 million from the Work Release program to focus on re-entry services; she wanted the board to commit to more than a pilot program and actually put recurring funding for the Hub into the budget.

Cornell agreed, saying that they could use carry-forward funds to develop the RFP and then have discussions about recurring funds during the budget cycle: “And so I think we will have the right amount of funds available once we kind of figure out what the right model is, which I think is probably going to be some combination that morphs into kind of a fully-funded non-profit that operates similar to [the way] GRACE does and we outsource to that group instead of us doing it ourselves.”

Cornell added, “This Hub should not be a place that we require folks to go to. It should be a place that people are running to because they recognize that they’re gonna have support to kind of get back on their feet, if that’s what they need, or access to other services… The more it can organically be coming from the community as a resource for folks, and it kind of develops a life of its own, the stronger it will be for those folks that need it.”

Board wants Re-entry Hub to be “one piece of a bigger thing”

Prizzia said the Hub is “one piece of a bigger thing that we’re addressing as a County, and how do we do the other pieces?” She favored putting more pieces in place in Court Services and in the jail to support re-entry.

Cornell said he hoped federal funds would be available to support the Hub once it gets up and running. 

Prizzia added to the motion a request that staff “do the research and bring back the internal models for re-entry programming” in addition to the Hub. She elaborated that she was referring to “additional efforts that we can do with internal [resources], like Court Services, in partnership with the Sheriff and others, to re-look at the past re-entry programming that we had and bring that forward as a possibility to reinvigorate… our past re-entry programming.”

Reasons for ending the Work Release program

Commissioner Chuck Chestnut supported the Hub but was concerned about the end of the Work Release program because people lose their job when they’re jailed and can become homeless: “I don’t know what happened, what caused it to disappear, for some reason, or to get rid of it, but I think it’s very important that we help people maintain their jobs and be sustainable in the workplaces where they work so they don’t lose their job.”

County Manager Michele Lieberman said staff could “bring back alternatives to work release that would allow people to maintain their jobs. Part of the concern with work release was, as you are aware, the judges stopped sending people for an extended period of time until several things were changed about the program that they were unhappy with. And even after that, we were still averaging such low numbers–for a program that ran $1.6 million to $1.8 million, we were talking about 15 to 20 people on average at any given time in a facility that could hold double that, easily. I don’t know that we ever restored that confidence in the program to the judicial system that we needed to. But I think there are other alternatives available out there as well that we can also bring back.”

Chestnut said judges should be “at the table” during the whole process of developing re-entry programs to explain what their concerns were with the Work Release program so a replacement program could be successful. 

Prizzia agreed, saying that’s why she said the process has to begin at booking: “If somebody loses their job and is unable then to provide for their families, then when they get out, it’s a vicious cycle.”

Tuck said that in staff’s meetings with the Sheriff’s Office, the Sheriff “had some ideas of what he could do, also, to look at getting people out of the jail quicker.”

Wheeler said judges should have “some kind of leeway in terms of sentencing around the job” if a person with a job is jailed. 

Prizzia added that she hoped they could “minimize or eliminate the garnishing of wages as part of the program, I think that could be a big component.”

Following public comments that supported the motion, the board voted unanimously to move forward.

  • Thank goodness we now have single member district hopefully in a couple elections we can get rid of these left wing idiots and get common sense people in office someone who will stop wasting our tax dollars on this nonsense

    • Even with single member districts we Democrats will still be in the majority in Alachua County and there’s not a damn thing Republicans can do about it. You all should move to Marion County where you’d be most welcome.

      • So Joey, at least Marion County has a tax base. They actively recruit new business to put people to work and collect taxes to pay for their services.

      • And when you find your, and current leadership’s policies untenable – you’ll be crying for us to return the community to some form of normalcy and decency.

      • The real question here is WHY you Democrats tolerate or even like the things that your ‘leaders’ bring like welcoming the bums and dope heads, not punishing violent criminals, not enforcing discipline in public schools, etc. Oh yeah, high taxes and the highest electric rates.

  • Are you kidding me? A “Hub” for criminals? Unbelievable! Of course, in order to be eligible, they will have to register with the Democratic Party and vote for Brandon on down in 2024!

    The real joke is, the Republican Party of Alachua County will not raise their voice over this misuse of taxpayer funds!

    Simply another AC BOCC waste of hardworking taxpayers money to support another important Democratic constituent group! Criminals!

    What is the plan to assist the victims of these poor, misunderstood, criminals?

    The idiots on the AC BOCC make the 3 Stooges look very smart!

  • So our smart commissioners want to bribe crooks who are getting out of jail (due to their own decisions) with gift cards??

    Make it make sense.

    As far as the location, get it and Grace as far away from the airport as possible. The first thing visitors and investors visiting our city is homeless panhandlers. What a great representation of this town…..

  • Why not just get them a room at the Holiday Inn until they finish all of their cognitive therapy? Yes, focusing on getting a job is of no value here; we know better. I do hope they have proper PhD psychologists instead of social workers for their cognitive therapy. Please consider Kobe beef instead of anything less, as far as their diets. And why not give them a little bar tab every day, and some pocket money so they don’t feel stigmatized.

    • I think they should accept nothing less than at least one meal at Ember’s or Prime & Pearl.

      Nothing but the best for our crooks!

    • I’m wondering if they’ll be as successful getting the local colleges to provide them a free education as GRU is of convincing UF to use them as a utility provider?

      They could call it the, “I gots outta jail now I dun gots this here degree” program.
      Not gonna happen – regardless of how left leaning UF is.

    • What happened to the homeless hotel the county bought on Newberry Road?

  • More Liberal nonsense attracting criminals to Gainesville.

    • Not really, just realist. If someone wants shouldn’t have to be bribed. Will Grace Market allow theses folks to reside there until back on their feet?? Probably not. Solutions must seek employment, Day Labor leads to full employment. It will be a total failure with only a few folks sincere about turning their life around.

    • Because we’re right, not wrong.
      Tell us why you’re not offering them a place to stay.

    • You can’t handle the truth !

      Your “feelings” are of no consequence to me. Man up !

  • just rename gainesville to “HUB,Florida its already a hub for criminals!

  • They are completely out of their minds if they think such a program would work in a college town! It should be placed in another county FAR FAR away.
    Otherwise, this is yet another campaign donor payback scheme like other useless NGOs. GRACE was just one failure, and its converted motel spin-offs like this, too.

  • Don’t know if these “leaders” have been keeping score but there’s a greater likelihood these repeat offenders experience rear entry than there is of zero entry.

    It all starts at home and with inflation, taxes and utilities being what they are around Gainesville, throw in lack of discipline, there may not be a home to go to.
    That’s the way it is and guess what – it’s not my fault.

  • This sounds insane. Where did this woke Claudia Tuck come from. This will be a bottomless money pit.

  • Sounds great. I hope it works out for the people that just went down the wrong path just remember God sits high and look low so don’t be the one to judge

    • Of course you wish to bring God into it.
      We are born free willed people.
      When something happens to you or your family maybe your point of view will change. That some folks need strict structure, not cuddling.

    • A bunch of people not using the judgment faculties God gave them is the problem (acting like wild animals). Maybe you can suggest a religious component to the rehab program. They’d probably have a deputy escort you out.

    • God wants us to learn from harmful sins, and change. Not be repeatedly excused so we can keep harming others.

  • If the judges don’t like the work release program then fix it. At 40 occupants per night, $1.8 million works out to $125 per night, per person. At the current 20 people its $250 per night. And with the current commission’s “all expenses paid” mindset this is all being paid by taxpayers these ex-cons have victimized.

    Nevertheless, Chestnut makes sense that the judges who see these ex-cons over and over should have far more say in this matter than people like Prizzia, Cornell & Tuck.

    If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

  • And why is the library district involved? May many ways are our tax dollars being spent on this?

  • Instead, can we build a hub designed to help these naïve, incompetent local politicians relocate to San Francisco where they belong? They will be much happier in their natural woke habitat.

  • It’s not my job to fund a convict with my hard earned tax dollars.

    They made their bed. They can lie in it for the rest of their lives. I’ve got LESS than ZERO compassion for them.

  • Yep more money from the law abiding citizens is the answer- we paid for their incarceration- and crimes – yep no hard labor for them- only the tax paying law abiders!

  • This is awesome! All of the ignorant mouthbreathers complaining about this have no idea how hard it is to re-enter society after serving time. You complain about homeless people, you complain about the unemployed – these people have served their time and want to work, provide for themselves and pay for housing. Get off of your high horse and try having compassion for other humans. You’ll enjoy life and actually be contributing to society when you’re not being such a miserable troll all of the time.

    • Sheena- these people ‘want to work?!’ Yeah, maybe about 3% of them. MAYBE.

    • How many homeless people have you brought into your home and feed at your table with your family? Gave them a place to sleep on a cold night if you haven’t then get off your dam high horse when others post on here against it.

  • It is interesting that the woke clowns on the County Commission talk so much about getting job training and jobs for ex-convicts. Gainesville is a haven for crappy low paying retail and service sector jobs, most of which offer no future. In fact, Gainesville has a leech economy that survives off government transfer payments, mostly for student loans and Medicare disbursements. The city has virtually no employers that manufacture anything the outside world wants or needs. The only growth industry in Gainesville is the proliferation of medical centers for the sick and decrepit that leech off government payments and a university that churns out mostly useless leftist psychos who don’t know their left butt cheek from the right. Oh yes, we do have a bunch of parasite ambulance chaser pickpocket lawyers advertising on the sides of buses and billboards. What a productive industry! Do we manufacture appliances here? Do we make vehicles here? Toasters, vacuum cleaners, televisions, radios, tools, lawn mowers, anything? No, just lots of crappy low paid fast food establishments and parasite lawyers. About the only adequate paying jobs to be had are working as tax bloodsuckers for local government. Therefore, if we wish the ex-cons to prosper, we should include them as diversity hires in local government and pay them at least $150,000 per year for doing virtually nothing — kind of like the useless A holes that are in our local government.

  • >