June 2, 2015
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Published June 1, 2015
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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – The former Hillsborough Correctional Institution sits back from the road.
Yet Monday, a group of women made their way through, snapping photographs as though they were tourists.
Many of them were former inmates and employees of the prison, there to say goodbye before the building gets demolished.
“I have never done drugs or alcohol or anything of that nature but there’s other forms of self-destruction and I was a master in all of them,” said Laurie Colbert, who served time there from 2009 to 2011. “Coming here and having group therapy and someone who really cared and let you know that they cared is what turned all of our lives around."
“Instead of just throwing us behind bars and saying you go do your time, they taught us to live a better life,” said Cindy Patterson, who was an inmate at HCI from 2004 to 2006.
Both women said they now own their own businesses and were finally able to thank the people who set them on the right path, including counselor Kris Childers.
“The only thing we see is when people come back to prison. And I’ve seen that many, many times,” Childers said. “And it’s like am I really doing anything here? And today is yes. We did do something. We’re very proud of that.”
“No one has ever seen or heard of women coming back to a prison and being excited enough to walk onto the property and hold their heads high,” Colbert said. “This place did that for us.”
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 22,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.