DAVENPORT, Fla. -- A Polk County man, an ex-convict, is trying to end recidivism in Florida by using his own experience.
By simply looking at Micah Turner, you wouldn’t have guessed he served eight years in a correctional facility.
He doesn’t wear the pain or emotion behind his punishment show on his face.
“I was driving too fast,” Turner said.
Instead, the family man owns up to his actions and tells ABC Action News his story.
In 2001, Turner says he was driving at least 85 mph along U.S. 27 in Clermont. While driving erratically, according to witnesses, Turner’s tire blew out and their vehicle rolled. His 2-year-old daughter wasn’t strapped in.
Those who didn’t die, suffered serious injuries.
“My daughter, my son and brother-in-law were killed in that accident,” Turner said.
The crash was a Central Florida headline and his conviction followed shortly afterward. A judge sentenced Turner to 10 years probation with two years of house arrest.
He ended up serving eight years in prison after breaking his probation by driving with kids in the car.
“That time allowed me to spend a lot of time looking in the mirror,” he said.
Even after we asked Turner multiple times if he felt punished twice after losing his family and then serving prison time for vehicular homicide, he said no.
It took years, Turner said, but he came to the conclusion that his actions directly impacted his children.
“I just decided when I came out, I was going to make a difference,” he said.
Like many prison inmates do, Micah Turner turned to God.
Now, out in the free world, Turner is preaching the Lord’s word online.
He’s also using experience to help men get back on their feet after leaving the big house.
“We can continue this trend where we can reduce the cycle of men that get out, they don’t have any hope, they don’t have any skills. They don’t have anywhere to turn and they just end up going back again,” Turner said.
ABC Action News discovered about one-third of all the men and women who are incarcerated in Florida, end up back in prison within a three-year span.
“According to the recidivism rates in the table below, more than one-third of inmates released have returned to Florida prisons within five years of their prison release date. However, the overall return rates have decreased from 38.7 percent for Cohort 2007 to 34.4 percent for Cohort 2013. It appears that most of returns happen within the first three years of the prison release date. Within the fourth and fifth year of the release date, the return rate has decreased to 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively,” a report reads from the Florida Department of Corrections.
For the full and most recent report click here.
Micah Turner and his new wife, Dawn Turner want to help end the recidivism, or drastically reduce the rate.
“If they have no family they get a $50 bill and a bus ticket,” Turner said re-entry wasn’t easy for him.
“$50 doesn’t go far,” his wife, Dawn chimed in.
That’s why the pair visits those still behind the fences for sermons and also to mentor those who are feeling down on their luck.
They are taking in clothing and toiletries, the Turner’s cupboards now stuffed with items which with help men and women re-enter the world with a bit more ease.
“We are collecting and as we hear, you know ‘so and so is getting out’ -- OK. So we will gather up a package get the sizes and stuff,” Dawn Turner says they’ve helped about a handful of inmates, as they are not getting released everyday.
When ABC Action News asked why the public should care about the men and women who have committed such crimes, both Turners told us most of the inmates will get out one day and that they should be able to a productive member of society again.
For Micah, we asked if this is a way of paying tribute to his family killed in a car accident, which he caused. He says no, but he hopes they are looking down upon him with approval.
“I would like to say I think I am making them proud and honoring their memory now,” he said.