The Orange County, FL, Jail Educational And Vocational Programs (Program Focus) FPL33RSD 166820

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Office of Justice Programs



U.S. Department of Justice


National Institute of Justice

National Institute of Justice











The Orange County,
Florida, Jail
Educational and
Vocational Programs



The Orange County, Florida, Jail
Educational and Vocational Programs
by Peter Finn
I didn’t want to participate in any programs, but that was the only way I could get
out of 33rd Street [the main facility] into one of the buildings that have open spaces,
only two guys to a cell, and good visitation rights. So I wouldn’t have taken MRT
[Moral Reconation Therapy—a substance abuse education program] if I didn’t
have to, but I’m glad I did. I learned about myself: I used to blame drugs as the
source of my problems, but I learned it’s my own attitudes and behavior that’s
responsible. Once you learn that, other things fall into place. Drug classes I had
taken before never did this for me. In the life skills classes, I learned how to write
a resume and present myself at a job interview, like sitting up straight. But you have
to obey the rules in the program facilities if you want to stay. I’ve seen guys get
busted back to 33rd Street because of shouting matches between inmates, for
example. A few come back here again, but then they’re careful to behave, because
the other facility stinks. There’s loud noise that keeps you from sleeping, it’s cold,
and there’s no carpeting, so they like it here much better.
— An inmate in the Orange County jail


ecause many inmates have poor
reading skills, few job skills, and
substance abuse problems, they frequently cannot find jobs after they are
released or can find only low-paid or
temporary work. Partly as a result,
they often return to a life of crime.1
Conversely, studies have found that
inmates who improve their educational
level during confinement are less likely
to reoffend than are inmates who do
not. To be sure, many of these studies
are inconclusive because they do not
eliminate the possibility that more motivated inmates —who would have
done better after release even without
the programs—are the ones who improve their basic academic skills. However, a study of Federal inmates that
attempted to adjust for this selection
bias also found that inmates who participated in educational programs were
less likely to reoffend.2 Similarly, a
study of Wisconsin inmates concluded
that prison education programs were
cost-effective because they reduced
recidivism or increased the time before
released inmates returned to prison.3

2 National Institute of Justice

State and Federal prisons typically
provide educational courses similar to
those included in these studies. By

contrast, few jails offer these programs, primarily because they lack
the money and suitable classroom
space, but also because most jail inmates remain locked up only briefly.
The Orange County, Florida, Corrections Division overcame these barriers
to providing intensive educational and
vocational programming in its 3,300bed jail—the ninth largest in the Nation—after it took over the facility
from the sheriff in 1987. However, as
the inmate’s description above implies, setting up these programs required dramatic changes in how the
jail was run. In fact, the entire jail now
revolves largely around its educational
and vocational programs—operationally, budgetarily, and architecturally.

The Orange County, Florida, Corrections
Division provides unusually intensive educational and vocational programs to most
inmates in its 3,300-bed jail. Staffed by 70
fulltime instructors, programs include adult
basic education, preparation for the general
equivalency diploma (GED), vocational
training, life skills development,
psychoeducation groups, and substance
abuse education. Courses are carefully tailored to the short periods of time that jail
inmates are incarcerated and typically run 6
hours a day, 5 days a week.
Educational and vocational programming is
the central component of a package of three
interrelated innovations in the jail designed to
work together to reduce corrections costs,
improve inmate conduct, and lower recidivism. In addition to educational programming, the package includes:
■ Direct supervision in facilities architecturally designed to allow maximum direct con-

tact between staff and inmates without physical barriers.
■ Behavioral incentives in the form of valuable privileges inmates earn if they participate
in programming and avoid misconduct.
The Corrections Division finances these innovations from the inmate welfare fund, local
and Federal grants, and State education disbursements to the county school board for
teaching adult basic education.
Evidence—much of it provided by an independent national auditing firm—suggests that
the combination of programming, direct supervision, and incentives has reduced staffing
needs, construction costs, and violent incidents, while it has increased inmate educational levels and job readiness. Another independent evaluation found that, as long as 18
months after release, inmates who were housed
6 to 45 days in direct supervision facilities
were less likely to reoffend than inmates who
were housed in these facilities less than 6 days.

Exhibit 1. Educational and Vocational Programming Process
Educational and
Vocational Programs
(Genesis, Horizon, Phoenix,
Whitcomb, and Zenith Facilities)

Work Release

• All amenities

• Community transition

Inmate agrees to



• Basic education
• Vocational training
• Life skills programs

• Job assistance program
- Job readiness services
- Job placement services

• Women’s psychoeducation support groups
• Substance abuse education

• Intake

• Testing for grade level

• Initial classification

• Testing for substance
• Vocational assessment
• Placement decision

Inmate refuses


• Release from jail
- Charges dropped
- Bond posted
- Nonfinancial pretrial

Inmate agrees to
or becomes eligible
for programs

County or DOC


(Main Facility)




EX 1 1

(Central Booking Facility)

• Literacy/English-as-aSecond-Language (ESL)

• Job assistance program
- Job readiness services
- Job placement services

Inmate has


Basic Housing
(Main Facility)

Inmate is not
eligible for

Inmate has
reduced disciplinary


* The following factors make an inmate ineligible for programs:
maximum security classification, a severe mental illness, and
a jail sentence of less than 60 days.

• No programs

Inmate has


Basic Incarceration
(Municipal Justice Building)



• Minimal amenities

• Time served
• Charges dropped
• Bond posted
• Nonfinancial pretrial

• No amenities
• No programs

Specifically, the jail:
■ Offers inmates a wide range of
structured educational and vocational programs (from adult basic education to carpentry) that are crafted to
accommodate inmates’ short stays.
■ Provides job readiness and placement services.
■ Offers inmates valuable incentives to
participate in programming—and to
avoid misconduct.
■ Manages most inmates through direct
supervision to contain costs, promote
inmate responsibility, and allow for open
areas that can be used as classrooms.
Each of these features is part of a comprehensive corrections strategy that enables
programming to flourish at the same time

that it saves the county money, keeps
inmates occupied and out of trouble, and
(it is hoped) reduces recidivism.

How the System Works
The principal steps in the jail’s programming operations, beginning with
intake, are presented in a flowchart in
exhibit 1, “Educational and Vocational
Programming Process.” The levels of
supervision and amenities in each type
of facility are shown in exhibit 2,
“Quality of Life in Jail Facilities.”

Orientation: Testing,
Assessment, and
After leaving the central booking facility, inmates spend 5 days of orientation
in the main facility of the jail complex,
where they take the Test of Adult Basic

Education (TABE) to determine their
grade level, the Substance Abuse/Life
Circumstances Evaluation (SALCE) to
determine whether they have a substance abuse problem, and a vocational
needs and interests assessment to identify suitable job options after release.
After testing, inmates meet individually with an assessment staff member
who explains the course offerings and
the strong incentives for participating.
Depending on the inmate’s program
preference and classification status, as
well as available space, the inmate
transfers to one of four facilities that
offer the desired courses—along with
relatively congenial living conditions:
■ Genesis: a one-story, 220-bed facility for men.

Program Focus 3

Exhibit 2. Quality of Life in Jail Facilities
and Vocational

■ Horizon: a three-story, 768-bed
coeducational facility.
■ Phoenix: a one-story, 288-bed facility
for men attached to a vocational school.
■ Whitcomb: a one-story, 199-bed
facility for women.
Mark Holmes, who supervises the jail’s
programs, explains, “The main facility
holds inmates who are not expected to
remain in the jail for more than 60
days, who are severely mentally ill, or
who have a maximum security classification, together with eligible inmates
who refuse to participate in a program.”
Inmates who test below a fourth-grade
level are housed in Zenith, a special
literacy or English-as-a-SecondLanguage (ESL) dormitory in the main
facility that offers the same amenities
and privileges as the four program facilities. As soon as they raise their test
scores, these inmates may move to one
of the four program facilities. (See the
aerial photo of the Orange County Jail.)


(Genesis, Horizon,
Phoenix, Whitcomb,
and Zenith Facilities)

(Main Facility)

(Municipal Justice







Coed Option


Contact Visits




Gain Time


Secure Personal




Library Services


Visits and
Telephone Use


✓ Limited

✓ Limited



✓ Limited

✓ Limited



✓ Limited

✓ Limited


waiting list for inmates to enroll in the
program of their choice, the classification officer must assign them to another program that has an opening.

Furthermore, while the Phoenix facility holds 288 beds, there are only 200
vocational slots. Administrators added
a GED program and substance abuse

Program Offerings
The Orange County jail offers five
types of courses: (1) basic education,
(2) vocational training, and (3) life
skills development, each of which
involves 6 hours of classes, 5 days a
week; (4) women’s psychoeducation
support groups, which meet daily for
about 2 hours; and (5) substance abuse
education classes, which meet for 90
minutes on alternating days (see “Principal Education Programs Offered in
the Jail”).
Inmates may join any course in progress if space is available. Nevertheless,
Holmes reports, “There may be delays.” After orientation, if there is a

4 National Institute of Justice

Housing Classrooms
Genesis (not visible)
Horizon Facility
Main Facility

Whitcomb Facility

Administration Bldg.

The Orange
County Jail offers
educational and
programs housed
in specially
designed facilities.

Principal Education Programs Offered
In the Jail
education to the facility’s offerings to
occupy inmates until a vocational slot
opens up. Despite these shortcomings,
few inmates experience delays or

Basic education. All four program facilities—Genesis, Horizon, Phoenix, and
Whitcomb—offer adult basic education
(ABE) and general equivalency diploma
(GED) preparation. Whitcomb also offers
remedial reading instruction. Basic literacy
and English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)
courses are available in the main facility.
Vocational training. In the Phoenix facility,
male and female inmates attend classes in
auto maintenance, desktop publishing, carpentry, culinary arts, warehousing, electrical
wiring, and other occupations and trades 6
hours a day. Every vocational course devotes
time to resume writing, mock job interviews,
and other job readiness skills.

A life skills instructor videotapes a mock job
interview with an inmate.

Job Assistance Programs
The jail has two prerelease job assistance programs. The first program,
staffed by four full-time corrections
employees, helps inmates search for
work and monitors the job performance of the 15 percent of former
inmates who are placed on county
probation. The second program,
staffed by two job developers from
Mid-Florida Technical School, helps
inmates enrolled in Phoenix vocational
courses find employment and addresses their medical, housing, and
transportation needs.
Job developers report that it can be
difficult to motivate released inmates
to continue their education, look for
work, or remain employed. One job
developer estimated that “as many as
three-quarters of inmates placed in
jobs while in work release or on probation quit after criminal justice supervision ends.” Even the most motivated

Life skills programs. Available in three of
the program facilities, life skills courses address employability skills, job search techniques, money management, and parenting
and relationship skills. The courses are selfpaced, and the sequence of topics is flexible.
Women’s psychoeducational support
groups. Under the supervision of a professor
of social work, master’s-level interns from
the University of Central Florida conduct 5
weeks of 90-minute small group sessions
two to three times a week in the Horizon
facility. One-on-one counseling to promote

inmates often face debilitating obstacles to continuing their education or
remaining on the job, ranging from not
being able to afford the necessary
housing, child care, or transportation,
to lacking the education and job skills
to qualify for anything other than
minimum-wage jobs.
“We are trying very hard to solve these
problems,” Mark Holmes reports. “For
example, two county social workers are
now operating in the jail trying to address inmates’ social needs upon release; case managers are starting to talk
about potential problems related to
release at the beginning of an inmate’s

An instructor helps inmates prepare for their
general equivalency diploma (GED) exam.

self-esteem, sober living, anger management,
and basic life skills is also offered.
Substance abuse education. Inmates in all
four program facilities whose Substance
Abuse/Life Circumstances Evaluation
(SALCE) indicates they have an alcohol or
other drug problem must enroll in Moral
Reconation Therapy (MRT), a nontraditional
psychoeducational course for use with substance abusers, batterers, and other individuals with “resistant” personalities. Through a
series of 16 structured tasks and workbook
exercises, MRT seeks to reeducate these
individuals behaviorally and socially and
raise their level of moral reasoning. MRT
changes the way individuals act by changing
the way they think.

confinement; and we have arranged for
a local homeless shelter that normally
closes at 9 p.m. to accept inmates at
any time of the night if they arrive with
a copy of a special admissions form
that we developed with the shelter.”

What Is So Special
About the Programming Innovations?
As noted above, the Orange County
Corrections Division educational/
vocational effort is much more than
just an impressive array of program
offerings. Several other features are

Program Focus 5


indispensable to the programs’
achievements: incentives for participation, direct supervision, active support
by corrections officers, cooperation
from schools, and programs tailored to
short jail stays.

Although inmates may refuse to join
any of the jail’s programs, administrators have created powerful incentives
for participating. According to Gillian
Hobbs, assistant manager of the Community Corrections Department, “Less
than 5 percent of inmates refuse to
join. We have an excellent balance of
positive incentives for desired behavior and negative consequences for
inappropriate behavior. Offering programs without these incentives would
have little effect because participation
would be minimal.”
■ Positive incentives. Sentenced inmates in Florida earn 5 days of gain
time (reduction in sentence) every
month if they follow the rules, and
pretrial inmates have 5 days a month
credited to any jail sentence they are
given if convicted. However, inmates
in program facilities earn an additional
6 days of gain time every month, for a
total of 11 days. While inmates can also
earn the additional 6 days as trusties in
the main facility, many find the work
boring. As one inmate observed, “You
work 9 hours a day for free [as a trusty]
and gain nothing. Here [in a program
facility], you get to go to classes—you
get something out of the system.”
■ Negative consequences. Inmates
who refuse to participate remain in the
main jail facility where—unlike in the
four program facilities—they are denied contact visits and television, have

6 National Institute of Justice

fewer visits and less use of the telephone, are permitted recreation only 3
hours a week, and are limited to buying only personal hygiene items at the
commissary. Inmates in the main facility are housed in uncarpeted dormitories without secure personal lockers
and with a relatively high noise level.
Every inmate becomes intimately, if
briefly, familiar with these spartan
conditions during orientation.
Once transferred to a program facility,
inmates can be sent back to the main
facility at any time for misconduct
ranging from shouting matches to
chronic class tardiness. One instructor
reported, “After an officer woke an
absent student, the inmate went up to
the teacher and snarled, ‘Don’t go waking me up again!’ The teacher had the
jail send the inmate back to the main
facility the same day.” Administrators
can also ship inmates in the main facility who misbehave to the downtown
jail, which offers even fewer privileges—and no air conditioning.
According to Don Bjoring, manager of
Community Corrections, “Probably 10
to 30 percent of inmates in program
facilities get bounced back to basic
housing. But classification officers in the
main facility routinely ask all inmates
who have not broken any rules during
the previous 2 weeks if they want to
return to a program facility. Most inmates ask—some even beg—to return.”
One inmate explained, “Guys think
they can take it there [in the main facility], but they learn it’s awful. It’s
macho to say you don’t care [about
conditions there], but it’s eight men in
a four-person cell with no privacy or
space for yourself.”

“Ironically,” Mark Holmes points out,
“it would be impossible for the education programs to continue if every
inmate were motivated to participate.
The jail could not sustain its old-style
main facility, which we need as an
incentive for inmates to participate in
programs and avoid misconduct.”

Direct Supervision
Programming also could not thrive
without direct supervision in the four
program facilities. Direct supervision
is an inmate management system that
combines three main features:
■ An architectural design that permits direct contact between staff and
inmates without physical barriers (bars,

A direct supervision common area with carpeting
and upholstered chairs does triple duty as a
television viewing area, classroom, and place to
socialize, all within easy observation of a
corrections officer sitting at her desk checking her
computer records.

glass, doors) and uses standard commercial furniture, plumbing fixtures,
and security hardware. Typically,
buildings have two or more “pods,”
each consisting of two-person cells that
open onto a large all-purpose open area
that serves as both a classroom and a
dayroom. One or two corrections officers staff a desk within each pod and


circulate as needed. Inmates are free
during the day to go back and forth
from their cells to the common area.
■ Behavioral incentives that motivate inmates to participate in programs and follow all rules. Direct
supervision helps officers quickly
apply the incentives previously described, because constant contact with
inmates enables them to observe brewing misconduct very easily.
■ A behavior-based classification
system that places inmates in
the least restrictive possible jail
environment based on their obeying
the rules and participating in
programs. This contrasts with assigning inmates to minimum, medium, and
maximum security areas based exclusively on the seriousness of the crime
they have committed (or been charged
with). Case managers and classification officers monitor inmates’ progress
with face-to-face meetings. They log
class attendance, infractions, and other
pertinent information into a computer
database that all staff share so that any
inmate who breaks the rules is reassigned swiftly to the main facility.

Do inmates who may feel coerced into
participating in educational and vocational programs learn anything? Several inmates think so, reporting that,
while they would not have participated
if it were not for the incentives, they
were glad they did. As one inmate
said, “Guys are angry when they get
here [in the jail], so they don’t want to
take programs, but the classes turn out
to be interesting and valuable. So it’s
good they force you to take them.
When you come in, you’re not thinking about programs, but then you start
working them and you learn from
them.” There is also clinical evidence
that individuals subject to compulsory
drug abuse treatment have reduced
criminal recidivism rates.4 Finally,
regardless of their motivation, hundreds of inmates in the Orange County
jail have earned their general equivalency diploma (GED).

Active Support by
Corrections Officers
Conflict between security officers and
program staff in corrections facilities
is a classic problem. Corrections officers claim that programs get in their
way and compromise security, while
program staff complain that officers
cavalierly yank inmates out of class
and interrupt instruction with counts,
searches, and lockdowns. However,
most officers in the Orange County
jail’s four program facilities cooperate
with the programs because they believe they experience fewer assaults
and lawsuits than do officers in the
main facility. Some officers report
they enjoy seeing inmates learning
rather than playing basketball or
watching television all day. One female officer said, “I’m proud to see
women learning how to change a car’s
oil and filter.” When instructors leave
for semester break, some officers tell
them, “Hurry back!” Most officers
support the programs with actions as
well as words:
■ When instructors report an absent
student, officers immediately wake up
the inmate and escort him or her to
class. Officers often circulate through
classroom areas to stop inappropriate
behavior, such as an inmate putting his
feet on the desk or dozing during
class. They also help new teachers
write up incident reports.

Programming, incentives, and direct
supervision are all indispensable for
the Orange County approach to work.
For example, direct supervision may
lead to increased disturbances unless
inmates are kept busy—something that
6 hours of programs a day takes care
of and the facilities’ architecture
makes possible. However, incentives
motivate most inmates to participate in
programming, which in turn keeps
them busy.
An inmate practices basic carpentry skills in the
Phoenix facility vocational program.

■ Corrections officers saw how well
Genesis—the jail’s first direct supervision facility—was working out. When
construction began on the Horizon
facility, the jail director was swamped
with requests for transfers from officers in the main facility’s basic housing
units. Conversely, when the county

Program Focus 7


Corrections Division was considering
turning Genesis into an all-female
facility, its male officers began fighting the plan because they hated the
idea of being transferred back to traditional housing.
■ According to one inmate, “Officers
care about you here in Horizon. Every
day, one officer who knows I have
epilepsy asks me if I’m OK. When I
needed to call my parents badly one
day, another officer let me use the
office phone.”
■ A lieutenant in the main building
asked that programming be expanded
to the basic housing units—as an inmate management tool. Ironically, it is
program staff who have to resist these
Officers who work in the main facility
must cooperate with the innovations
because they need to observe and record
the positive and negative inmate conduct
to determine whether inmates are eligible for transfer to a program facility.
Main facility officers also need to avoid
the temptation to transfer inmates to
program facilities simply to reduce overcrowding or to get rid of inmates who
are a nuisance or who continually pester
them to be transferred.

Cooperation From
The jail’s educational innovations
would not have been possible without
close collaboration with the Orange
County Public School Board, which
runs the county’s adult literacy and
technical education programs. The
State of Florida, which funds these
efforts, requires counties to provide
free basic education to disadvantaged

8 National Institute of Justice

adult residents. Every year the head of
the county school system recommends
to the school board’s advisory council
that eliminating illiteracy among inmates and providing them with vocational education be made a high priority
in deciding how to allocate services
among competing educational needs in
the county. As a result, one-quarter of
the total adult education system budget
for Mid-Florida Technical is allocated
to providing instruction in the Orange
County jail. An assistant director of the
Orange County Technical Education
Centers serves as the jail’s full-time,
onsite “principal,” supervising 70 fulltime instructors.
Most instructors like working in the
jail—indeed, many prefer it to regular
teaching because they have more control over discipline. According to one
teacher, “If you kick someone out of
class [in regular schools], even if the
student gets suspended he’s back in
class a few days later. But if you remove someone here [in the jail], they
go back to the main facility for at least
2 weeks and then, if they do come
back to the program facility, they are
never placed with the same teacher.”

Programs Tailored to
Short Jail Stays
Jail and school administrators have
implemented several strategies to help
ensure that inmates are offered the maximum possible amount of useful educational benefits before they are released.
Focus on core competencies. The jail
focuses first and foremost on providing
inmates with basic reading skills. For
example, the vocational programs devote time to raising inmates’ TABE

Women inmates in the Horizon facility life skills
course use computers to pursue topics of interest at
their own pace, such as job search techniques and
money management strategies.

scores to give them the academic
skills, like math, needed for jobs in the
trades. Similarly, while there is a generally accepted order regarding which
skills should be taught first, second, and
so on in life skills classes, instructors
teach the skills they feel are most critical
first—for example, stress management
and coping with anger—in case inmates
are released before the course ends.
Self-paced course work. In most of
the jail’s courses, inmates can work at
their own pace, either on a computer
or in a workbook, or by means of
independent study monitored by the
instructor. As a result, quick or motivated learners are not held back by
slower or less energetic students.
Intensive course work. Most courses
involve 6 hours of classes a day, 5 days
a week. As a result, although the typical
inmate assigned to a direct supervision
facility remains in jail for about 60
days, even this short stay enables them
to attend over 250 hours of classes
before release. Each inmate in Phoenix,
which typically houses inmates for a
shorter, 45-day period, attends an average of 192 hours of vocational classes
before release—the equivalent of
nearly five 40-hour weeks.
Identification of “early exit” points.
Because of the shorter average stay of
Phoenix inmates, jail and school ad-

Program Funding Sources and Major Costs
Inmate Welfare Fund: $394,000 a Year*
■ $199,000 for student registration fees.

ministrators try to identify technical
skills in local demand that Phoenix
instructors can teach in a short period
of time. School administrators then
restructure their standard 9-week vocational courses (the number of weeks
required for State reimbursement) to
focus initially on quickly learned
skills. For example, instructors altered
the automobile repair course to focus
on the quickly taught skills of changing
oil and filters after a local automobile
repair chain reported these were the
skills it needed most.
After release, interested Phoenix inmates can transfer easily into MidFlorida Technical School’s Postsecondary Technical School to complete their education or to enter an
apprenticeship program. This is because the Phoenix facility’s vocational
offerings duplicate the school’s curriculum and because inmates participating
in Phoenix courses are already officially enrolled in the school. Furthermore, under Florida guidelines, exoffenders can obtain tuition waivers or
financial assistance if they continue
their education at the technical school.
Short-term substance abuse counseling.
Most inmates are released too quickly to
attend traditional substance abuse counseling groups. As a result, every program
facility provides a self-paced substance
abuse education course, Moral Reconation
Therapy (MRT) (see “Principal Education
Programs Offered in the Jail” on page 5
for an explanation of MRT).

Does It Work?
The combination of programming and
direct supervision has achieved a number of noteworthy milestones.

U.S. Department of Education Grant,
1994–1996: $241,580 a Year

■ $15,000 for school expenses such as
student workbooks.

■ Two life skills instructors and a program coordinator for Horizon facility.

■ $180,000 for substance abuse education instruction.

■ Computers and curriculum software for
life skills program in Horizon facility.

County School Board Funding (via State
Funding): $3.6 Million a Year

University of Central Florida: $30,000
matching grant to supervise women’s
psychoeducation groups

■ Salaries of 70 instructors.
■ Purchase of half of vocational equipment for Phoenix facility.
■ Two full-time staff for the Test of Adult
Basic Education (TABE).

Volunteers: Instructors, community
members, chaplains, and corrections officers volunteer their time to plan and
teach a special course for juvenile inmates
who test at a 12th-grade reading level.

■ Two full-time job developers.
* Inmate welfare funds come primarily from a surcharge that jails place on collect calls inmates
make to their families and from profits realized when jails purchase commissary goods at
discount but charge inmates the prevailing retail price. In effect, because most inmates have no
savings or income of their own, their families provide the money that supports the fund. Some
inmate advocates have questioned the way correctional facilities use these funds, but few critics
are likely to object to spending the money on educational and vocational courses for inmates.

■ Staff reductions. The four program
facilities have a much higher inmate-tosecurity-staff ratio (5.6:1) than either
the main facility (3.2:1) or comparable
nearby jails (3.2:1 to 3.8:1).
■ Operating cost reductions. According to an independent evaluation
by a national accounting firm, the daily
operating cost per inmate in the Orange
County jail is lower than at four other
Florida jails of comparable size:5
Orange County
Broward County
Dade County
Palm Beach County


indirect supervision facilities was nearly
$50,000 (1996 dollars), while the average
cost for the four direct supervision facilities was just over $30,000. Based on
these figures, the independent accounting
firm concluded that if all the jail’s direct
supervision housing had been built as
indirect supervision beds, it would have
cost the county approximately $28 million more (1996 dollars)(see “Are the
Reduced Jail Costs Due to Cost Shifting
or to Real Savings?”).

Comparing costs with those of the next
most inexpensive county (Broward)
shows that the daily savings per inmate to
Orange County of $6.28 add up to a significant amount when multiplied by
3,300 inmates over 365 days—
$7,564,260 (see “Program Funding
Sources and Major Costs”).

■ Use-of-force reductions. The number of incidents requiring the use of
force (for example, takedowns) declined from 3.59 per 100 inmates in
1987, the year before programming and
direct supervision were introduced, to
2.02 in 1989, the year after their introduction, to 1.30 in 1995. Although
about half of all inmates are housed in
direct supervision facilities, only 45—
8.4 percent—of the 533 uses of force in
1995 occurred in these four facilities.

■ Construction cost savings. The average per-bed construction cost of the jail’s

■ Low rates of violence. A study by
the University of Central Florida

Program Focus 9

Are the Reduced Jail Costs Due to Cost
Shifting or to Real Savings?
found that direct supervision units had
much lower rates of suicide, inmate
injury, staff injury, fighting, use of
force, and disciplinary reports in 1995
than did the basic housing units.6 For
example, the average use-of-force rate
in direct supervision areas was 3.2
compared with nearly 30 in regular
housing. The rates for death, homicide,
and suicide per 1,000 inmates in 1995
were also lower in the entire Orange
County jail than for other similar size
jails (jails with a rated capacity above
2,000) in Florida, in the southeastern
United States, and nationally.
■ Educational improvement. More
than 4,200 inmates attended at least
some education classes in 1995; 15
percent of these inmates completed the
life skills course, 3 percent the
women’s psychoeducation groups, and
1 percent substance abuse education.
Fourteen percent earned their GED.
Eighty-four percent of inmates who
took the GED test in the jail earned
their diploma, compared with 70 percent of test takers in the county as a
whole. Women in Horizon’s psychoeducation groups were significantly
less depressed and anxious after completing the course compared with
women inmates waiting to enroll in the
groups. The groups’ supervisor said
that several officers have told her that
members become much more manageable after a few sessions. In fact, during
the 12 months after the introduction of
the psychoeducation groups and the life
skills programs, Horizon experienced a
20 percent reduction in the number of
female inmates—94 versus 121—sent
back to the main facility for discipline
problems, compared with the previous
12-month period.

10 National Institute of Justice

As shown in “Program Funding Sources
and Major Costs,” the State of Florida
provides the Orange County Jail with $3.6
million, principally for 70 full-time instructors. The inmate welfare fund pays
for the instructors who teach the jail’s
substance abuse education program. The
question might therefore be asked, have
the innovations actually reduced the costs
of running the jail or have they simply
shifted the cost to the State and to the
inmates (or their families)? The answer is,
some of both.
Jail administrators readily acknowledge
that for direct supervision to work, inmates need to be kept busy, and it is the
programming—paid for largely by the
State and, to a much lesser extent, by the
inmate welfare fund—that prevents inmate idleness. Without the programming,
the jail would have to hire additional corrections officers to handle the disciplinary
problems idleness might create. In this
sense, the jail has reduced corrections
costs to Orange County by taking advantage of available State and inmate funds to
provide the programs that avoid the need
for additional security staff.
However, the innovations also make it
less costly to run the jail irrespective of
State and inmate support. An independent

Recidivism. Finally, on the critical measure of whether the programs reduce
recidivism, the University of Central
Florida study found promising results.
The researchers compared postrelease
bookings (that is, rearrests) into the Orange County jail among 600 inmates
transferred into direct supervision units.
They divided the inmates into 3 groups
of 200 each according to the amount of
time spent in direct supervision:
Group 1 Least time in direct
supervision. 167 of these
inmates spent no time in
direct supervision housing.
The remaining 33 spent 0 to

evaluation of the jail’s costs conducted in
1996 by a national accounting firm found
that, if the same number of inmates who
are housed in the jail’s direct supervision
facilities were housed in indirect supervision facilities, it would cost the county
approximately $9.5 million more each
year. Yet the State and inmate contributions to providing programming total less
than $4 million. This suggests that the jail
saves $5.5 million a year in staffing costs
that cannot be attributed to cost shifting
but instead reflect the advantages of direct
supervision coupled with incentives and
educational programming. As jail administrators point out, the instructors are not
in the jail on the evening and night shifts,
on weekends and holidays, and during
semester breaks.
Furthermore, to the extent that dollars have
been shifted from the State and the inmate
welfare fund to pay for providing educational programs, the money from these
sources has not come from increased taxes
to the public or increased fees to inmates.
Finally, irrespective of any reductions in
the costs of operating the jail, the county
has saved millions of dollars in construction costs by not having to build and
furnish more expensive indirect supervision facilities.

5 days in direct supervision
housing before being
returned to regular housing
or released.
Group 2 Moderate time in direct
supervision. All 200 of these
inmates spent from 6 to 45
days (the average was 23 days)
in a direct supervision facility.
Group 3 Most time in direct
supervision. All 200 of
these inmates spent 46 days
or more (the average was
102 days) in a direct
supervision facility.

The County
Commissioners Play
A Crucial Role
The researchers used time in direct
supervision housing as a proxy for
program participation because, for
most of their stay in these facilities,
inmates were required to participate in
at least one program.
The researchers followed the inmates
for a minimum of 18 months after
release. Although the recidivism rates
of groups 1 and 3 did not differ significantly, ex-offenders in group 2 had
statistically significant fewer bookings
than did ex-offenders in either group 1
or group 3 (see exhibit 3). Statistical
tests suggested that longer jail terms
reduced recidivism only if the offender
spent at least a moderate amount of
time in a direct supervision facility.
The number of days in custody
significantly predicted the number of
postrelease bookings only among inmates who remained at least 6 days in
direct supervision housing. The researchers have not yet determined why
a moderate amount of programming

(6–45 days) had a greater effect on
recidivism than did longer periods (46
or more days).7

How the Program
The stage was set for innovation at the
Orange County Corrections Division in
1987 when, in an unusual move, the
sheriff decided to turn the jail over to
the county (see “The County Commissioners Play a Crucial Role”). After
taking over the jail, the county board
commissioned a study that predicted
that by 1998 the jail population would
increase from 3,300 to 5,000–6,000. To
accommodate the increase would have
required $50 million in new construction costs, with needed additional staffing raising the price tag still higher.
The commissioners hired Tom Allison
in February 1987 to head the new corrections division precisely because he
convinced them that he could run the

Exhibit 3. Recidivism by Time Spent in Direct Supervision
Direct Supervision Time

Group 1
(0–5 days)

Group 2
(6–45 days)

Group 3
(46 or more days)

Total number of postrelease




Recidivism: Average
number of postrelease
bookings per inmate**




Reduction in recidivism
compared to group 1




*Subjects released before July 30, 1995, were tracked for 18 months after release.
** Some subjects were rearrested many times, some only once, and some not at all.

The chair of the seven-member Board of
Orange County Commissioners, not a sheriff as in most jurisdictions, runs the local
correctional system. The board has supported the jail’s innovations largely for
four reasons:
■ Costs. The combination of programming, direct supervision, and State funding for instructors, along with a decline in
jail population, has kept county corrections costs relatively low. (See the section
“Does It Work?” on page 9).
■ Security. Escapes have not increased
since programming and direct supervision
were instituted, and they are no more frequent than at other nearby jails. Equally
important, no escapee has attacked any tourists visiting the county’s numerous theme
parks—a major source of county revenue.
■ Get-tough approach to criminals.
According to Howard Tipton, the deputy
county administrator, politicians who tour
the jail always ask, “How do you survive
politically doing this—providing inmates
with such pleasant living conditions?”
Tipton’s answer: “This isn’t a liberal initiative; we balance punishment and treatment.” In fact, Tom Allison, the former
Corrections Division director, removed
exercise weights from the entire jail, eliminated television, basketball, and cards from
basic housing units in the main facility,
and expanded the institution’s work crews.
Furthermore, the county introduced medical copayments. Tipton adds, “The treatment inmates receive is directly related to
their conduct: the better they behave, the
better they are treated.”
■ Potential for reducing recidivism.
The commissioners directed that jail administrators arrange for independent
evaluations to determine whether direct
supervision and programming have
achieved their promised potential for reducing recidivism, thereby decreasing
criminal justice system costs.

Program Focus 11

The Corrections Division Director Was the
Driving Force
jail cost effectively (see “The Corrections Division Director Was the Driving Force”). Allison proposed to use
the money available in the county’s
capital budget to experiment with constructing a small direct supervision
facility. Its proposed built-in classrooms for educational programs would
make it possible to both manage inmates and reduce staffing costs. In
July 1988, Genesis opened. After witnessing the success of Genesis, the
commissioners approved Allison’s
request to construct the other three
direct supervision buildings.
From the beginning, Allison worked to
persuade the county school board that
inmates should receive priority treatment because State statutes required
the board to provide adult basic education services to disadvantaged adults.
The board had been offering classes in
the jail for 23 years when Allison was
appointed, but those classes made up
less than 5 percent of its adult education activity. Furthermore, its programs were designed primarily to keep
inmates occupied. Allison argued successfully that the only way to keep
inmates from returning to jail is to
“send them out different people from
when they came in.” This reasoning
helped persuade the school board advisory council (composed largely of
private-sector business people) and the
director of one of its technical education centers to shift more school board
resources to the jail.
Setting up the programs and learning to
live with direct supervision generated
considerable conflict among everyone
involved. Because no officers volunteered to staff Genesis, the building was
staffed forcibly on the basis of senior-

12 National Institute of Justice

Another essential component of the Orange County story is the leadership of a
determined director of corrections. Tom
Allison, appointed in 1987 and director
until 1997, was committed from the start
to providing inmates with programs that
would give them both improved selfesteem and marketable reading and vocational skills as the only realistic course for
preventing recidivism. However, Director Allison was determined to provide
these skills as part of a package of innovations that would include direct supervision, behavioral incentives, and a behavior-based classification system.
Allison knew that the innovations had to
reduce corrections costs if he hoped to
gain support from both the county commissioners and the public for inmate programs. As a result, rather than focusing on
the programs’ benefits to inmates or the
program’s future and uncertain impact on
recidivism, he emphasized that the changes

ity. Some officers quit rather than
switch. Instructors raised union issues
to oppose the use of dayrooms in the
jail as classroom space. Until the incentive system was developed, many inmates who chose Genesis either did not
appreciate the living conditions or, if
they did, still broke the rules.
Over time, a team focus evolved in
which each group became less selfcentered and had less of a need to be in
control. This transformation occurred
because Tom Allison employed a judicious mix of reasoning, exhortation,
training, and compulsion. In addition,
he brought in a small group of consultants to promote team building. Perhaps
most important, the innovations proved
their value as a management tool for
corrections staff, as an educational
priority for school board officials and
instructors, and as an improvement in
living conditions for most inmates.

would reduce construction and staffing
costs to the county. Allison also believed
the innovations could be successful in the
long run only by delegating a great deal of
control to midlevel managers and line
staff. For example, he gave officers in
program facilities the authority to transfer
inmates who engage in misconduct to the
main facility. Inmates can only appeal this
decision to the facility shift supervisor,
who usually sides with the officers. He
encouraged senior managers to set up planning, accountability, and consistency
teams, made up of line staff, to overcome
their own difficulties. According to
Allison, “One person can’t sell change
within a jail; everyone has to take the
initiative.” Reflecting this delegation of
authority, Howard Tipton, the deputy
county administrator, reported approvingly, “Tom doesn’t know what’s going
on in the jail today [1996], but that’s OK;
we pay him for what’s going to go on
tomorrow and the next day.”

Can Other Counties
Set Up Similar
Replicating Orange County’s accomplishments will require considerable
effort. However, the payoffs are likely
to be equally rewarding. The following conditions appear to be the minimum requirements for achieving what
this jail has done:
■ Strong support from the top.
Fearing negative media coverage,
most sheriffs, as elected officials, tend
to focus on avoiding potential incidents such as escapes or violence and
shy away from the political risks involved in radical change. As a result,
jurisdictions in which the sheriff runs
the jail may need a strong mayor, chief
judicial officer, or other key official to
support the changes—and to share the
heat when problems arise.


■ Leadership skills. Jurisdictions
need a sheriff or corrections director
with the vision, determination, and
management and public relations skills
to make the innovations work and to
see them through the tough times they
will encounter. The sheriff or director
in turn needs the authority to pick
qualified managers from inside or
outside the corrections department to
implement the changes.
■ Constructing or retrofitting facilities. Orange County was fortunate in
having a large capital budget at its
disposal combined with the need to
expand bed space. As a result, it could
move immediately into constructing
direct supervision facilities with builtin classrooms. Jurisdictions not in
these circumstances will need to retrofit their existing jail buildings or purchase or lease suitable structures.
■ A comprehensive package of innovations. Programming needs to be
integrated into a comprehensive package that includes direct supervision,
delegation of considerable decisionmaking to the manager and line level,
collaboration with local schools
(which may be more difficult than in
Orange County if the State does not
mandate that public educators serve
the disadvantaged), and tapping into
every possible source of funding.
■ No overcrowding. The jail cannot
be so overcrowded that there is no bed
space in the old-style part of the jail to
which inmates who break the rules in
program facilities can be transferred.
Another key to success is to begin
small. Orange County began by constructing the 220-bed Genesis facility

as a test case for the innovations. Even
if a jail has only one building and
funds are not available to construct a
direct supervision structure, it may be
possible to retrofit one section of the
existing facility to test the innovations.
Some jails have already introduced
some of the major features of the Orange County package of innovations.
Several have developed extensive educational programs for inmates. With
nine full-time instructors and more than
200 volunteers, the Safer Foundation’s
PACE Institute in Chicago has provided GED, pre-GED, and literacy
services to over 15,000 inmates in the
Cook County Jail since the 1970s.
The National Institute of Corrections
and the American Jail Association
have each identified more than 100
facilities in more than 24 States that
have implemented direct supervision.
In some cases, as in Larimer County,
Colorado, sheriffs have retrofitted
existing podular remote facilities by
leaving doors open or removing them
and placing corrections officers in the
housing units.
The National Institute of Corrections
has identified at least 16 additional
facilities that have been converted to
direct supervision. Still other counties
have built new direct supervision facilities. A few jails, including facilities
in San Francisco and Contra Costa
Counties, California; Broward County,
Florida; and Larimer County, Colorado, have combined direct supervision with formal programs (see
“Sources for Further Information”).
Finally, Orange County has shown
that the benefits of educational pro-

gramming and direct supervision can
be substantial—more than enough to
offset the work involved in implementing the innovations: reductions in
staff, operating costs, and inmate violence and improvements in inmate
education and employability. If jurisdictions need to construct or obtain
additional bed space, they can save
considerable money by building or
leasing facilities that can accommodate programming and direct supervision. Finally, the innovations may
reduce recidivism—perhaps the most
important payoff of all.

1. Anderson, D.B., R.E. Schumacker, and S.L.
Anderson, “Releasee Characteristics and
Parole,” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 17
(1991):133–145; Berk, R.A., K.J. Lenihan,
and P.H. Rossi, “Crime and Poverty: Some
Experimental Evidence from Ex-Offenders,”
American Sociological Review 45 (1980):766–
786; Freeman, R.B., “Crime and Unemployment,” in Crime and Public Policy, ed. James
Q. Wilson, San Francisco: ICS Press,
2. Harer, M.D., “Recidivism Among Federal
Prison Releasees in 1987: A Preliminary
Report.” Unpublished paper, Washington
D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal
Bureau of Prisons, Office of Research and
Evaluation, March 1994.
3. Piehl, A.M., “Learning While Doing Time,”
Unpublished paper, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University, John F. Kennedy
School of Government, April 1994.
4. Leukefeld, C.G., and F.M. Tims, eds.,
Compulsory Treatment of Drug Abuse:
Research and Clinical Practice, NIDA
Research Monograph 86, Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse,
1988; Anglin, M.D., and H.Yih-Ing, “Treatment of Drug Abuse,” in Drugs and Crime,
ed. Tonry, M., and J.Q. Wilson, Chicago:

Program Focus 13

Sources for Further Information
The Orange County Corrections Division distributes a narrative and videotape of
the programs at its Horizon facility, as well
as literature describing the jail innovations.
Staff also give guided tours of program
facilities and classrooms. Contact:
Mark S. Holmes
Senior Unit Supervisor
Programs Unit
Community Corrections Department
Orange County Corrections Division
P.O. Box 4970
Orlando, FL 32802–4970
Telephone: 407–836–3375
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the
principal research, evaluation, and development agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. For information about the NIJ’s efforts in
corrections, program development, and corporate partnership development, contact:
Marilyn C. Moses
Program Manager
National Institute of Justice
810 Seventh Street, N.W., Seventh Floor
Washington, DC 20531
Telephone: 202–514–6205
Fax: 202–307–6256
The National Institute of Justice established
the National Criminal Justice Reference
Service (NCJRS) in 1972 to serve as a
national and international clearinghouse for
the exchange of criminal justice information. For more information about topical
searches, bibliographies, custom searches,
and other available services, contact:
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849–6000
Telephone: 800–851–3420 (8:30 a.m. to
7 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday)
For specific criminal justice questions or
requests via Internet, e-mail:
The Office of Correctional Education
(OCE) within the U.S. Department of Education was created by Congress in 1991 to
provide technical assistance, grant funding,
and research data to the corrections and
correctional education fields. To speak with

14 National Institute of Justice

a program specialist or be placed on OCE’s
mailing list to receive grant announcements,
OCE’s quarterly newsletter, and other publications, contact:
Office of Correctional Education
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue S.W.
MES 4529
Washington, DC 20202–7242
Telephone: 202–205–5621
Fax: 202–401–2615
World Wide Web site: http://
The National Institute of Corrections Jails
Division offers free technical assistance on
inmate programming and direct supervision
and a 30-hour jails orientation workshop on
direct supervision. Ask for the publications,
NIC Jails Division: A National Resource for
Local Jails and the NIC Service Plan for the
current year. The institute also offers a Podular
Direct Supervision Jails Information Packet
and a videotape for sheriffs, county commissioners, jail planners, and line staff that highlights the basic concepts of direct supervision. Contact:
NIC Information Center
1860 Industrial Circle, Suite A
Longmont, CO 80501
Telephone: 800–877–1461
Fax: 303–682–0558
The National Institute of Corrections’ Office
of Correctional Job Training and Placement (OCJTP) was created in March 1995 to
■ Cooperate with and coordinate the efforts
of other Federal agencies in the areas of job
training and placement.
■ Collect and disseminate information on
offender job training and placement programs,
accomplishments, and employment outcomes.
■ Provide training to develop staff competencies in working with offenders and exoffenders.
■ Provide technical assistance to State and
local training and employment agencies.
For more information, contact:
John Moore

Office of Correctional Job Training and
National Institute of Corrections
320 First Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20534
Telephone: 800–995–6423 ext. 147 or
202–307–3361 ext. 147
The American Jail Association (AJA)
provides regional training seminars, onsite
technical assistance, and training materials
related to inmate programming, direct supervision, and other corrections topics for a
modest fee. The Association also sponsors
an Annual Training Conference & Jail Expo.
The Association’s magazine, American
Jails, includes articles on jail innovations,
such as “Direct Supervision: A Systems
Approach to Jail Management,” Spring
1989, pages 67–71. Contact:
Stephen J. Ingley
Executive Director
American Jail Association
2053 Day Road, Suite 100
Hagerstown, MD 21740–9795
Telephone: 301–790–3930
Fax: 301–790–2941
World Wide Web site: http://
The Correctional Education Association
(CEA) is affiliated with the American Correctional Association as an international
professional organization serving education program needs within the field of corrections. Membership includes teachers, librarians, counselors, and other education
professionals. Members receive a quarterly
journal and newsletter, an annual directory,
and a yearbook. Annual conferences are
held in each of CEA’s nine regions and
many of its State chapters. One of the regions hosts an international conference with
workshops on successful instructional strategies. Contact:
Alice Tracey
Assistant Director
Correctional Education Association
4380 Forbes Boulevard
Lanham, MD 20706
Telephone: 301–918–1915
Fax: 301–918–1846


University of Chicago Press, 1990:393–460;
Falkin, G.P., H.K. Wexler, and D.S. Lipton,
“Drug Treatment in State Prisons,” in Treating
Drug Problems, Vol 2, ed. Gerstein, D.R., and
H.J. Harwood, Washington, D.C.: National
Academy Press, 1992:89–131.
5. The auditors found that per-inmate costs in
the Orange County jail were higher than
those of two other Florida jails. However,
one of the other jails, in Hillsborough
County, had at least one overcrowded
facility; it arguably costs less per inmate to
operate an overcrowded than an at-capacity
facility, because the number of corrections
staff and fixed costs remain constant no
matter how many inmates are housed. The

About This Study
This document was written by Peter Finn,
senior research associate at Abt Associates Inc. The findings and conclusions of
the research reported here are those of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the
official position or policies of the U.S.
Department of Justice.

other jail, in Duval County, had only 694
staff compared with 864 in Palm Beach,
1,259 in Broward County, 2,349 in Metro
Dade, and 1,436 in Orange County.
6. McCarthy, B., R. Surrette, and B.
Applegate, Orange County Corrections Jail
Evaluation Project: Outcome Analysis,
Orlando, Florida: University of Florida,
Department of Criminal Justice and Legal
Studies, April 1997.
7. Although inmates were not randomly
assigned to the three groups, they did not differ
significantly in race, classification level, age,
education, or number of bookings before
release. Groups 2 and 3, however, included

All photos courtesy of Michael Davies,
Orange County, Florida, Corrections
On the cover: A vocational instructor
in the Phoenix facility shows an inmate in the automotive repair course
how to mount a tire.

larger percentages of females than did group 1.
In addition, as the length of program participation increased, both the proportion of inmates
who had been convicted (as opposed to
awaiting trial) and the average number of days
in custody increased. As a result, differences in
gender, conviction status, or days in custody,
rather than programming or direct supervision,
may explain differences in recidivism. The
recidivism data would be more valid if further
analysis of the data could control for previous
criminal history and offense seriousness, either
of which may relate to length of jail stay and
later risk of recidivism (more serious offenders
get longer sentences and are more likely to be

The National Institute of Justice is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which
also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance,
the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,
and the Office for Victims of Crime.

NCJ 166820

December 1997

Program Focus 15

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

Permit No. G–91


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