12425 28th Street North, Suite 103
Missions: To provide a joint effort between the Department of Corrections, the correctional work programs, and other vocational training programs to reinforce relevant education, training, and post-release job placement and help reduce recommitment; to serve the security goals of the state through the reduction of idleness of inmates and provisions of an incentive for good behavior in prison; to reduce the cost of state government by operating enterprises primarily with inmate labor, which enterprises do not reasonably seek to compete with private enterprise; to serve rehabilitative goals of the state by duplicating, as nearly as possible, the operating activities of a free-enterprise type of profit-making enterprise.
Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc., or PRIDE Enterprises, with headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a private, not-for-profit manufacturing and services company whose purpose is to train the inmates of Florida's correctional institutions for employment outside those institutions. Listed in Trend Magazine's top 150 private companies in Florida, PRIDE operates about 55 diverse industries in 20 correctional institutions throughout the sate, offering on-the-job training as well as placement services and support for inmates when they are released. Among its various industries are farming, food processing, digital information services, furniture and garment manufacturing, vehicle maintenance and repair, and printing. Specific items and services PRIDE offers, to name but a few, are metal and wooden bookcases, office furniture, bleach, paint, and mattresses as well as janitorial, book binding, and printing services. Although it receives no direct support funding from the State of Florida, PRIDE sells its products to various customers, including not-for-profit businesses, local governments, and public schools; furthermore, under a controversial state statute, Florida agencies are required to purchase products and services made available by PRIDE when the price and quality of its goods and services are comparable to those available from other sources, including both the private sector and other state agencies. What is not controversial is the fact that over the two decades of its operation, PRIDE has helped Florida achieve a substantial reduction in inmate recidivism and has become a model for similar programs in other states. PRIDE is currently headed by Pamela Jo Davis, who is the corporation's CEO and president. She is also the CEO of Industries Training Corporation (ITC), a holding/management company providing management services to PRIDE as well as Labor Line, a staffing company that finds jobs for former prisoners and others facing barriers to employment.
1979-81: PRIDE Is Approved by the Florida Legislature
The roots of PRIDE go back to 1979, when Florida's legislation authorized the Prison Industry Enhancement Program, which made it possible for correctional institutions to provide prison inmates for work in for-profit industries provided the workers were paid the prevailing wage in those industries and part of wages went towards crime restitution and prison costs. The Florida legislation was hardly unique. In fact, with at least one eye on a need to provide inmates with marketable trade skills before their release, many states already ran prison industries operated by either their departments of correction or some other state agency.
With that authorization for such a program in place, drugstore mogul Jack Eckerd came up with the idea for PRIDE, and in 1981 helped get its enabling legislation passed. However, because some Florida legislators perceived the work program as a potential tax drain, the authorization for PRIDE stipulated that it had to be vested as a private, not-for-profit entity. Thus, PRIDE became one of the first prison work programs to develop without the support of public funds. In fact, except for some early seed money provided by private businesses, from the outset the program was entirely self-supporting.
1982-90: PRIDE Develops Both Its Pre-release and Post-Release Components
For the first few years of its existence, PRIDE concentrated on the development of its pre-release component. Its focus was on developing a comprehensive job training program that stressed work in a productive, commercially relevant industry. Starting in 1987, PRIDE put in place its second main component--its post-release component--which extended employment services to released prisoners who had participated in the program while in prison. That PRIDE would help them find jobs on the outside encouraged more prisoners to participate in the program.
1991-96: Low Inmate Recidivism Rate Among PRIDE'S Participants
In 1991, the reins of PRIDE were assumed by Pamela Jo Davis, who brought to her posts as president and CEO considerable experience in private business and public service. Among other accomplishments, she had directed a $100 million Strategic Business Unit for Motorola, Inc., conducted research surveys for Business Week magazine, and had helped establish the Latin American office of Dow Chemical Corp. in Coral Gables, Florida.
Under her leadership throughout the 1990s, the performance of PRIDE continued to justify its existence, albeit on a modest scale. The program was not consistent in its growth, however, and in the first half of the 1990s actually shrunk some in its operational size. In the 1991-92 fiscal year, more than 5,700 convicts worked in 43 industries and 13 service operations, logging over 4.5 million hours at 20 state correctional institutions. In contrast, in 1996, at 21 of Florida's 60 state prisons, there were just 4,600 inmates in the program, although, with 4.2 million hours, these logged almost as many hours at work as the participants did in 1991-92.
PRIDE, with sales of $83.2 million, paid its 1996 workers about $1.9 million. It also purchased goods and services from some 3,500 Florida-based companies. Moreover, it gave $797,500 to the state to offset some of the cost of inmate incarceration. It also put $274,653 in the state's crime victim restitution fund. More importantly, based on the criteria described below, the percentage of PRIDE's program participants re-arrested for crimes committed within two years after their release was just 12.7 percent, which was considerably below the national recidivism rate of 60 percent within the same two-year, 1995-96, period.
1997-99: Establishment of RISE
Between 1996 and 1998, PRIDE's employment service helped over 900 of 1,383 former inmates who participated in the program with in-state jobs on the outside. Of those who did get employment through the company's service, 468 got jobs which related to the work training they received under PRIDE while in prison.
In 1997, PRIDE introduced a new methodology designed to measure the re-incarceration rate of former inmates who had participated in its program. The recommitment rate was defined as a return to prison or to community supervision for a new crime occurring within 24 months of an individual's release from prison. Using fiscal 1994 as its baseline, when 2,512 former PRIDE workers were released from prison, the sample study limited its survey to the 619 ex-offenders who had been in the program for six months or more. Just 78, or 12.6 percent of these were recommitted within a two-year period.
By 1997, PRIDE was offering over 400 different "skill paths" to the nearly 2,600 inmates working its 41 industries operating at 20 Florida prisons. In 1996, the inmates earned $1.6 million, of which $242,758 was contributed to the corporations's victim restitution program. At that time, 87 percent of PRIDE's industries were either certified or recognized by relevant accrediting business or trade associations or institutions.
In early 1999, with over 12 years experience in placing released inmate trainees, the company took a new course. It divested its employment services group and created a new affiliate, RISE (Renewed for Industries, Services, and Employment), which, like PRIDE itself, was organized as a 501 (c)(3) corporation. RISE then took on the responsibility of providing former inmates with help finding jobs on the outside, especially meaningful work that was relevant to their in-prison training. The affiliate also took on the task of reducing the number of former PRIDE trainees who became dependent on publically-funded social programs or were again incarcerated.
The leadership of Davis in PRIDE's success in the 1990s was also recognized in 1999. In that year, Governor Jeb Bush named her to the Florida Council of 100, the exclusive group of Floridians honored for their dedicated service to the state. She was also honored as "Business Woman of the Year" by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
2000-02: PRIDE Retains Wide Public Support
Despite being a success story, over the years PRIDE has proven very controversial and has generated considerable criticism, something that Davis has sporadically faced throughout her tenure as the corporation's chief officer. Much of this criticism stems from the fact that, by federal law, states can keep up to 80 percent of an inmate's pay. Florida has kept 60 percent, with two-thirds of that going toward offsetting incarceration costs and the remainder going into a victim compensation fund. The pay scheme has drawn fire from both labor unions and industry competitors, who have argued that PRIDE and similar prison industry programs have had an unfair advantage because their labor costs are very low. Also, critics continue to harp on the fact that PRIDE and similar programs have what they perceive as additional advantages because they le- gally sidestep competitive requirements. For example, in Florida, except for printing services, any product or service provided by PRIDE remains exempt from the bidding requirements imposed on the private sector by statutory law. Under Section 946.515 of the Florida Statutes, state agencies are legally required to purchase products and services from PRIDE when such products and services are of a comparable price and quality to those available through any other source. The only restriction is that a product must have been made or a service must be provided by prison inmates.
Bitter complaints about the whole prison labor business have resulted from such real and alleged advantages. Among the voices heard was that of Tim Graves of Marietta, Georgia, who claimed that he was driven out of business in 1998 when a federal prison industry beat his company out of missile-shipping container contract by underbidding him. However, PRIDE has convinced many that the program has saved some Florida enterprises. Don Patach is a well-publicized example. Part owner of Maven Furniture Industries in Lakeland, Patach credited PRIDE with saving 80 jobs in the Lakeland area that otherwise would have gone to Mexico. In 1997, on the verge of moving the company's operation to the Yucatan Peninsula because he was unable to hire workers in Florida, he hired prison inmates under PRIDE's program and began operating Maven's sister company, Maven Manufacturing, in the Hardee Correctional Institute.
Still, PRIDE and its counterparts in other states have also drawn vituperative criticism from some prison inmates and former inmates who, in prison and underground newspapers and online forums, have argued that such programs are exploitive and, particularly in the South, are little more than slave labor. In the face of the decline in Florida's recidivism rate, that argument has few supporters among Florida's citizens. Major defenders, like Daniel Webster, who served a term as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, have argued that PRIDE has had a major positive impact. Quoted in "Big Business in the BIG HOUSE," an article in the Fall 1999 issue of Georgia Tech Magazine, Webster observed that the program's "benefit to the public is awesome because those people are not going back to the correctional facility, or causing more havoc--whether it's murder, rape, burglary, destroying property. If you look at the recidivism statistics--even over an extended period of time--those prisoners in PRIDE usually don't come back. They have a skill that is marketable, and their supervisors know what they can do. We have employers who are signed up to hire them." In short, the program worked and seemed destined to survive its detractors' efforts to put an end to it. Also, the program's ability to meet the outsourcing needs of many businesses had simply offset the complaints from some businesses about the unfair competitive edge enjoyed by PRIDE.
Given the ballooning incarceration rate in the United States, in part driven up by harsher penalties for nonviolent crimes, PRIDE and programs like it seemed likely to experience robust growth. The "war on drugs" during the 1980s and 1990s left federal, state, and local lockups overcrowded. In 2000, 699 out of every 100,000 citizens in the United States were incarcerated in one of those facilities. Moreover, 77 percent of the growth in the number of inmates from 1978 to 2000 involved nonviolent offenses, most notably drug possession convictions. The U.S. rate of incarceration, the highest in the world, is a figure made even more disturbing by the fact that it had more than tripled since 1980. Correspondingly, sales of products and services provided by prison industries rose sharply in that same period. In 1997, for example, 30 states permitted contract prison labor, and it had become big business, as is evidenced by the fact that between 1989 and 1995 prison industry sales nationwide grew from $393 million to $1.81 billion. In addition, the recidivism rate of prisoners involved in PRIDE seemed to be slowing, although hardly at a pace that would at any time soon impact this and kindred programs.
Principal Competitors: CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants); Federal Prison Industries (FPI); Florida Department of Corrections, Special Education Department; Prisoners for Christ Outreach Ministries.