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Bridging the Gap

June 1, 2017

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Founded in 1980, Bridges International (BI) is the largest, oldest and most successful private provider of re-entry programming in the state of Florida, providing a continuum of care in Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, Transition Centers, Community Release Centers, and Community Re-Entry Services Transitional Housing for offenders, ex-felons and probation populations.

Founder Frank Costantino, an ex-felon who was released in 1972 from the Florida Department of Corrections after serving time for burglary, opened up the first after-care resident program in Orlando, Florida, upon determining something was needed between prison and society to bridge the gap. What started as local ministry has now parlayed into a worldwide vision that serves more than 10,000 inmates and offenders annually.

Lori Costantino-Brown, Frank’s daughter, took on the leadership role as president and CEO of Bridges International in 2006. Her leadership has enhanced the program to meet the needs of evidence-based treatment in the 21st century. She stands behind Bridges International’s unwavering commitment to provide thousands of felony criminals the opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities as lawabiding and tax-paying citizens nationally and internationally.

Bridges International has the proven expertise in successfully addressing the requirements of the criminal justice system as well as in meeting the specialized substance abuse treatment and reintegration needs of the criminal justice population. BI has contracted with the Florida Department of Corrections since 1980, and has managed more than 125 contracts with the DOC and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Florida Probation and Parole Services, the county court systems and jails to service criminal justice populations. BI, in partnership with the Department of Corrections, developed the Therapeutic Community Drug Treatment Program model that allows offenders to become active participants in their personal recovery from addiction.

BI has proven expertise in successfully addressing the requirements of the criminal justice system as well as in meeting the specialized substance abuse treatment and reintegration needs of the criminal justice population.

The Bridges International corporate office, operating with a highly competent team of more than 15 employees, effectively monitors contract compliance through quality assurance indicators, documentation and data collection, staff training, financial controls, and adherence to the Department of Corrections’ rules and regulations. They currently manage 12 facilities throughout Florida with an average total daily population of approximately 1,600 inmates and clients. In addition, Bridges Correctional Treatment provides Outpatient, Intervention, and Aftercare Treatment in five Department of Corrections Community Release Centers (Atlantic, Fort Pierce, Opa Locka, Orlando, and West Palm Beach) for a total of 245 program slots.

History of Bridges International Ex-felon, Frank, was sentenced to a 22 year prison term for
burglary and other related crimes. He accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of his life two years before he was paroled. “And it changed my life completely.”

Upon leaving prison, Frank had a calling and an urge to return and share with other prisoners his testimony of God’s transforming love. The chaplain at Raeford Prison, Rev. Max Jones, asked if he would be willing to return to the prison and talk to the prisoners. After careful consideration Frank agreed.

Frank observed men repeating the cycle of the revolving door time after time. He realized that releasing an inmate with $100 and a suit of clothes did little or nothing to change the course of the man’s life. He said that people are incarcerated for making bad choices and the penal system was not addressing that fundamental issue. The average person in society makes about 200 decisions a day and when they are arrested most of their decisions are made for them, such as when to eat, sleep or shower. But when they are released they are once again expected to make about 200 decisions and now they can’t be bad ones. So, in 1976, Frank founded “Christian Prison Ministries” as a way to be part of the solution. This gave him and others an opportunity to share the Gospel with other prisoners and to this end the theme, “Believe a Man Can Change,” was created.

As Frank began to share his story in the prisons in his spare time and listen to their concerns and fears of returning and going back, he quickly recognized that the number one problem is twofold: not only do they need gainful employment, but they also need a place to stay with an address and telephone number in order to seek it. Frank determined something was needed in between prison and society to bridge the gap.

During the early 80’s, the drug culture changed and crack cocaine became the drug of choice which created a crime epidemic. The increase of crime eventually resulted in overcrowded prisons. He determined that a diversion program was needed before they even reached the penal system. Another program would treat inmates before returning to the community and deal with community re-entry, assisting them in making the essential connection within the community. Frank said, “Releasing a person back into society without treating the problem is just plain wrong.”

In 1980, Frank opened up the first “After-care” resident program in Orlando, Florida to provide a bridge long enough to get them to the other side. The Bridges International contract with The Florida Department of Corrections for The Orlando Bridge began a partnership that provided a work-release program with a substance abuse overlay to address drug and alcohol problems. Frank realized that if the inmates did not deal with the underlying problems which contributed to their incarceration that they would return and leave “a hole in time.”

He said, “While I was in prison vague concepts began to come into focus. It seemed as though everyone was, to some extent, a prisoner of their own personality, motivated by forces beyond their control. One thing seemed apparent through it all. Takers are losers and people who don’t care leave holes in time.”

What started as a local ministry has now parlayed into a worldwide vision that serves over 10,000 inmates and offenders daily.

Bishop Frank Costantino passed away in April of 2006, however his vision and legacy lives. Lori Costantino-Brown, Frank’s daughter, was appointed by the Board of Directors to continue the vision and leadership of Bridges International. Lori has further enhanced the programs and continued Frank’s bequest to meet the needs of evidencebased treatment in the 21st century. The Bridge program is an International presence with programs and outreach ministries in countries on four continents. The program was founded on the basis of the “Wholistic approach to recovery” predicated on the 12 Step model. We have followed the same basis for 30 years while increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the program and increasing the quality of care for the person served.


Company: Bridges of America/Bridges International
Contact: Lori Costantino-Brown
Address: 2145 Metrocenter Blvd. Suite 350, Orlando, FL 32835
Website: www.bridgesofamerica.com
Email: Lbrown@bridgesofamerica.org
Telephone: 1 (407) 218-4800