The History of PRIDE Enterprises
PRIDE Enterprises was created during an era when correctional industries nation-wide suffered from financial and management problems. In Florida, the correctional industries lost money in the 1970s and had to be subsidized by the state. They were criticized for their ineffectiveness in providing inmates with meaningful work and employability skills that would enable them to successfully compete in the job market upon release from prison. Twice during the 1970’s, Texas correctional industry staff visited the state of Florida to provide critical assessments and recommendations for Florida’s correctional industry operations.
Ultimately, the Florida legislature concluded that prison industries could be better operated by an independent, private enterprise company, rather than the Department of Corrections (DC). Legislators also realized that state bidding requirements impeded the efficient purchase of raw materials necessary for manufacturing operations; correctional industry staff lacked the technical and business skills to successfully run the programs; employee compensation was insufficient to attract qualified staff from the private sector; and there was little coordination or organization of the various programs.
The decision to remove prison industries from DC’s management did not come quickly or easily. It was only after the urging of Jack Eckerd, then President and CEO of Eckerd Drug Corporation, that this transformation was even considered. State Senator George G. Kirkpatrick and Representative Jerry Rehm took the legislative lead in 1981. On December 14, 1981 the Legislature and Governor Bob Graham approved a short one- paragraph legislative mandate which created Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc. (PRIDE) as a 501(c) 3, non-profit corporation. This statute effectively transferred the administrative and operational control of Florida’s prison industries from the Florida Department of Corrections to PRIDE.
An associate of Mr. Eckerd, Guy Spearman, and Attorney Wilbur Brewton were instrumental in drafting subsequent legislation and facilitating its adoption in the legislature. To this day, both Mr. Spearman and Mr. Brewton are actively involved in representing the interests of PRIDE Enterprises. Mr. Eckerd, Mr. Spearman and Mr. Brewton took the 1981 legislation and, over a 2 year period, created what is now Part II of Florida Statutes Chapter 946. With the passage of this legislation, the Legislature acknowledged that, although the state had a continuing interest in correctional programs, the state prison industries could be more efficiently and economically run if it were independent of state government.
In addition, Florida became the first state to implement the transfer of its correctional industry program from the public to the private sector. This prison industry program model has been of interest to several other states and to foreign governments. Elements of the program have been adopted by other states to varying degrees. Florida’s program is still the eminent model of a correctional public-private enterprise.
It is important to understand that PRIDE was created by the Florida Legislature as an independent non-profit corporation, but functions as an instrumentality of the state. Any benefits that accrue to PRIDE ultimately benefit the Florida taxpayer, state government, and the inmate worker, not the corporation. In essence, the “stockholders” of the corporation are the taxpayers of Florida. In the event PRIDE dissolves, or its lease with DC expires, all property and assets relating to PRIDE will revert to the state of Florida. The state maintains a present ownership interest that is continuing and insurable.
A Board of Directors, appointed by the Governor, and confirmed by the state Senate, provides continuing fiduciary oversight and direction for the organization. In 1982, Governor Bob Graham appointed Mr. Jack Eckerd as PRIDE’s first Chairman of the Board. During the succeeding years, Governor Graham, Mr. Eckerd and Floyd Glisson (PRIDE’s first President) were instrumental in the organizational development and program expansion of the corporation.
PRIDE launched its first work program, Zephyrhills Print, in September, 1982. The commencement of the Zephyrhills Print Industry marked the first time in Florida prison industry history that an inmate compensation plan was developed and implemented. In July 1983, PRIDE and DC completed the transfer of the last industry program to PRIDE, accomplishing this significant project a full twelve months ahead of the legislatively mandated schedule.
During the 1980’s, while PRIDE’s industries concentrated on increasing production output, improving efficiencies, and maintaining financial independence, the corporation focused administrative resources on expanding its inmate transition program capabilities. A Director of Inmate Placement was hired, a position responsible for finding meaningful jobs for each released PRIDE inmate. An ex-offender outplacement office was also established to coordinate efforts in obtaining jobs and to assist in coordinating social services for PRIDE inmate workers leaving the correctional system.
In 1989, the Training, Industry, Education and Support (TIES) program was implemented, which integrated inmate job training and education needs with targeted job placement opportunities. This program provided in-depth assistance to PRIDE inmate workers during their incarceration and for one year following their release, making it one of the first fully-coordinated prison programs in the nation. Additionally, PRIDE expanded its victim restitution program by authorizing 15% of each dollar earned by inmate workers would be paid to victims who had court-ordered restitution decrees.
PRIDE continued to expand its industries and programs throughout the 1990’s, and its unique program model became nationally recognized. The PRIDE model was selected by the state of California as the best existing model to emulate in reforming their correctional industries. PRIDE was also one of the first corporations to be invited to participate in President Clinton’s Welfare to Work inaugural meeting at the White House.
In 1999, the Florida Legislature authorized PRIDE to oversee the federally regulated Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program for the state of Florida, which enabled the expansion of the PIE program to most of PRIDE’s industries. Later that year, PRIDE received the Governor’s Sustainable Florida Standards Leadership Award for Initiative for its contributions to the state’s economic, environmental and social future.
With the turn of the millennium, PRIDE saw ups and downs in its businesses and management. PRIDE attempted to redefine the business model by creating management-holding, inmate placement and business development companies. In June, 2004, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) and the State Attorney General recommended that all relationships with these companies be severed. This controversy led to the resignations of PRIDE’s CEO, Pam Davis, and President, John Bruels. PRIDE ended its relationship with its service provider and brought all management and corporate functions back in house.
After restructuring, Jack Edgemon, Executive VP, was promoted to Interim CEO in September, 2004. Mr. Edgemon and his staff took measures to ensure that PRIDE achieved its statutory missions, while building financial stability and operating as an ethical and transparent company. By year end 2005, working capital had improved by over $7 million, and $1.3 million was spent on necessary facility and equipment maintenance. The Director of Mission Programs position was created to emphasize the importance of the company’s statutory missions. In October, 2005, Jack Edgemon was selected by PRIDE’s Board of Directors to become PRIDE’s fourth President.
During the next few years, a greater emphasis was placed on the core missions with the expansion of vocational training programs and transition services. The program completion rates for inmate training modules were at all time high levels. The percentage of ex-offenders placed and retained in jobs exceeded all previous years. The Board of Directors approved a Code of Ethics and Business Conduct for all staff and Board members. In 2007, PRIDE reached its highest ever annual revenue of over $78.9 million.
PRIDE staff has been allowed to administer the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) along with continual skill certification updates in keeping with current market trends. A non-revenue generating, Culinary Arts program, providing inmates with classroom and on-the-job training in the food service vocation, was launched with the intent of providing valuable skills and increasing the number of participants in PRIDE’s Transition Program.
As tax-supported entities, especially state agencies, experience revenue and budgetary reductions, PRIDE continues to maintain its core programs and expands businesses where opportunities arise. PRIDE partners with the Department of Corrections to attract new industries and work programs under the Federal Prison Industry Enhancement Program.
The true mark of success and the ultimate benefit to the citizens of the state, is seen in the dramatically lower recidivism rates for those ex-offenders that have participated in a PRIDE program. It is clear that PRIDE Enterprises continues to be a model for correctional industry programs while providing a very important service to the state of Florida.