Largo inmate work center shut down

LARGO, Fla. - The largest work release center in the state of Florida saw its contract canceled by Governor Rick Scott early Friday morning.

Inmates at the Goodwill Work Release Center in Largo were shipped out at 4 a.m.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says he could not see the center staying open, especially after a number of situations came to light.

The purpose of the center was to rehabilitate convicted criminals and put them back into the workforce.  But recent negative attention on the program led to its shutdown.

Neighbors have complained about inmates roaming free around their neighborhoods and causing problems.
Last year, one inmate escaped and killed two men in St. Petersburg and another raped a teenage Japanese exchange student.

The Sheriff's Office opened an investigation, and not only found that some went missing for several hours, others were conducting hand-to-hand transactions. Other inmates were stashing items like cell phones and lighters in nearby bushes, according to the report.

ABC Action News showed up this morning to talk to someone, but our crew was quickly ushered out.

Our calls to Goodwill went unanswered.

Sheriff Gualtieri could not say how many were taken away from the work release center, but said they are no longer in Pinellas County and likely at the Polk County Correctional Institute.

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