The official ribbon cutting for the new Gadsden Re-Entry Center was held Tuesday morning at the facility, which is located on the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy grounds.
The Re-Entry Center will house 432 inmates when it’s at full capacity and employ 92 staff members, 52 of which newly-appointed warden of the facility Walt Summers said are from Gadsden and Leon County.
“It is a great day,” Sam Culpepper, Department of Corrections (DOC) Region 1 director said of the official opening of the Re-Entry Center.
Culpepper talked about the changes that have taken place over the last few years to focus on helping inmates re-enter society.
Warden Walt Summers
He praised former DOC secretaries Walt McNeil and Ken Tucker for their vision concerning re-entry.
Current Secretary Michael Crews, Culpepper said, had continued the idea and the result has been the Gadsden Re-Entry Center, adding that there are two more Re-Entry Centers in the making.
DOC Secretary Michael Crews
Secretary Crews spoke about the emphasis now focusing on helping inmates become better citizens.
“These inmates once released,” he explained, “are your neighbors and stand beside you in the stores.”
DOC, he said, wanted to make those that are re-entering society better people with skills to help them become productive citizens.
Now, he said, all of the state’s prisons will be focusing on educating and training inmates and this facility is the first to do so.
“This will be the benchmark and flagship for the state and country,” he said.
Re-entry programs help with recidivation of inmates (those who end up back in the system), which has improved over the last few years from a high of 33 percent to the current 27 percent. Culpeper said it was “fundamentally and morally the right thing to do.”
This is the first prison in the country to be located on a college campus, Crews said in reference to the Academy grounds which are part of the TCC Campus.