April 5, 2016
Lloyd Singleton, an extension agent with University of Florida in Sumter County, was recently awarded a $2.67 million contract to expand a vocational training program to teach horticulture and culinary arts at the Federal Correctional Center in Coleman, Florida.
More Florida inmates will have an opportunity to leave prison with real job skills and likely reduce their chances of being reincarcerated thanks to the contract between the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The five-year contract will help organizers expand a current program that offers horticulture training, Singleton said. He has headed the program for five years, which offered horticulture training to approximately 80 inmates a year. Now, the new contract will include culinary arts and will allow organizers to train more inmates.
“In the past five years, we have trained 415 inmates, 195 of whom have been released. Only seven of those released have been re-incarcerated,” Singleton said. “The recidivism rate of four percent is substantially lower than the national average, which shows that giving inmates training before they leave prison helps them to become productive citizens.”
According to the National Institute of Justice, within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested. Also, Florida pays approximately $30,000 a year to house and feed a prisoner, Singleton explained. “The training we offer is a huge economic benefit to the state, because we are helping inmates to leave with real skills,” he said.
Inmates studying horticulture prepare for two types of certification: Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP), and Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association – Certified Horticulture Professional (FNGLA FCHP). For each type of certification, prisoners learn hydroponics and seed germination, planting, maintaining, scouting and harvesting vegetables in raised beds, and planting the landscape areas in the compound, including maintenance and scouting for problems.
Inmates who get either certification can look forward to careers in landscaping services, nursery and greenhouse production, small or large farm work, and irrigation design, installation and maintenance, Singleton said.
Singleton will work with Chef David Bearl to teach culinary arts. Bearl trains program assistants in the UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program, who then train Florida families on healthy cooking techniques. Also, he is a chef for the Farm to School and Farm to Table programs.
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