Ex-felon rights restoration clinic in Tampa Saturday

Sean Shaw supports felon rights restoration

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After an ex-felon has served his time in Florida, his civil rights are not automatically restored; unlike most states, Florida keeps thousands of ex-felons from voting and a from number of other basic citizenship rights. But many people, including Tampa-area state Representative Sean Shaw, want to change that. The Democrat is co-hosting an ex-felon rights restoration clinic this Saturday.

“Well, it’s gonna be amazing. It’s Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at Middleton (High School in Tampa) and really, what we’re trying to do is– lots of entities have “restore your rights” workshops, but, what we’re trying to do is provide more services. So, we’re trying to provide some legal advice so you know how to navigate it. We’re going to have the SOEs [Supervisor of Elections] office. We’re going to have lots of other government entities. We’re also going to have employers that are willing to hire employees that are returning to life; individuals who might have a record.

“So, we’re trying to provide sort of ‘wrap-around’ services for this whole thing and it’s really timely, because of what’s going on with the amendment to try to get rights restored on the constitution so people can vote for it. But, we’re trying to provide a whole bunch of different services to the people.”

Listen:

What kind of documentation should people bring?

“They should definitely bring whatever charge that ended up being the underlying felony, they should bring anything related to that. Certainly bring your driver’s license, identification and anything related to that and you’re voter’s registration– you know, anyone that is a family member–if you don’t have your rights to vote–any family member, they ought to bring their voter registration, too. A lot of times, family members will not be registered to vote because the family member has lost their rights. A lot of times family members don’t take it as serious and don’t think it’s a big deal because: ‘Well, if he can’t vote/she can’t vote, I’m not interested.’ But, we want everybody involved and the family to be able to be registered to vote.”

And you mentioned the Constitutional amendment. I want you to tell people about that. What’s the status quo now and what do you hope it will be if this Constitutional amendment passes?

“Right now, if you commit a felony, your rights can only be restored if you go before the Cabinet; it’s a very laborious process. The Amendment would make it much more automatic restoration of rights for certain felonies. Right now it has passed; it got enough signatures to go to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court approved it, so now it’s got to get enough signatures to get on the ballot and I think it needs 700,000+ signatures. So, right now we’re in the process of gathering those signatures, so we’re certainly gonna be trying to make sure that we help with that effort to gather those signatures. Florida is one of the few states that is the most restrictive in how they deal with restoration of rights and we’re trying to change that.”

Finally, what would you say to people who say: ‘Look, people who have committed felonies, they should have their rights taken away and not given back.’

“Well then, they don’t live in the America that I was brought up in. America is the land of second chances. Once you’ve done your time, you’ve done your time. Once you have done whatever a judge and jury has sentenced you to, it’s over, it’s done. You should not keep paying the same price throughout your life.”

The rights restoration clinic is being co-hosted by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

It’s this Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Middleton High School, 4801 North 22nd Street in Tampa.

Watch the interview:

 

  • rogerclegg

    I have no problem with helping people navigate Florida’s process, and I don’t agree that there should be an automatic restoration of voting rights instead. To the contrary: If you aren’t willing to follow the law
    yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else,
    which is what you do when you vote. The
    right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a
    case-by-case basis (like Florida has) after a person has shown that he or she has really turned
    over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most
    people who walk out of prison will be walking back in. Read more about this issue on our website
    here [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/voting-news/felon-voting/538-answering-the-challenges-to-felon-disenfranchisement ] and our congressional testimony here: [ http://judiciary.house.gov/_files/hearings/pdf/Clegg100316.pdf
    ].

    • Michelle Gibson

      RESTORATION OF RIGHTS DOES NOT KEEP YOU SAFE OR PUT YOU IN DANGER, IT DOES NOT INCLUDE GUN RIGHTS, THAT IS A SEPARATE APPLICATION PROCESS THAT IS CAREFULLY REVIEWED. IT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO VOTE, ALLOWS PEOPLE TO HOLD MORE OCCUPATIONAL LICENSES ETC. IT HONESTLY DOESN’T HELP A FELON OUT A WHOLE LOT, BUT ITS SOMETHING. THIS DOESN’T WIPE SOMEONES RECORDS CLEAN , IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU MORE UNSAFE. ACTUALLY ITS TO THE CONTRARY. IF POEPLE AS WHOLE KEEP UP THIS IDEA THAT A FELON DESERVES NOTHING, THAT THEY ARE FOREVER DEFINED BY THEIR MISTAKES AND JUDGE ALL FELONS WITH A BROAD STOKE TRYING TO BLOK EVERY SINGLE ADVANCEMENT THEY TRY TO MAKE TOWARDS A REAL REHABILITATION, THEN THAT IS MAKING YOU UNSAFE RIGHT THERE. PEOPLE ARE VERY UNEDUCATED IN THIS COUNTRY IN REGARDS TO THESE THINGS , HENCE THE FEAR AND THE SPREADING OF MISINFORMATION.PEOPLE WHO WALK OUT FROM PRISON ARE WALKING BACK IN, REHABILITATION ISNT HAPPENING IN PRISON AND ITS NOT IMPOSSIBLE OUT HERE BUT IT IS WITH MANY ROADBLOCKS FROM PRECONCEPTIONS LIKE YOURS. IM NOT ATTACKING YOU AT ALL EITHER, I REALLY WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND THIS BETTER AND CHANGE YOUR MIND. I HAVE BEEN A FELON SINCE I WAS A TEEN, SENTENCED AS AN ADULT, NO VIOLENT CRIMES, NO DRUG CHARGES. I WAS LET GO FROM A POSITION FOR WHICH I WENT TO SCHOOL FOR AND I HAVENT COMMITTED A CRIME IN 10 YEARS AND THAT WAS A DRIVING WHILE LICENSE SUSPENDED CHARGE. I WAS LET GO 3 WEEKS INTO TRAINING WHEN THEY FINALLY COMPLETED A BACKGROUND CHECK THEY FORGOT TO DO ON MYSELF AND TWO OTHERS. 2 OF US WERE LET GO. IT IS GETTING HARDER. SOMETHING NEEDS O CHANGE , I HAVE SEEN GREAT PEOPLE TURN TO CRIME LITERALLY TO MAKE MONEY TO SURVIVE AFTER THEY TRIED ALL OTHER WAYS. I WILL NOT BUT I STRUGGLE SO HARD , I HAVE BEEN PUNISHED PERMANENTLY CRIMES I COMMITTED AS A CHILD , ITS WORSE THAN YOU THINK IT IS AND THATS A LARGE PORTION OF WHY YOU SEE PEOPLE REOFFENDING. WE NEED TO CONCENTRATE ON VIOLENT CRIMES AND REALLY CONCENTRATE ON OTHER OFFENDERS , HELPING THEM RE ENTER AND WORK AND MAKE A BETTER LIFE FOR THEMSELVES AFTER THEY COMPLETE THEIR SENTENCE TO PREVENT THE CYLE OF FAILURE, INCARCERATION , DEPRESSION , WHICH LEADS TO DRUG USE AND MORE CRIMES AND FAMILIES BROKEN APART AND A WHOLE NEW GENERATION COMING WHOSE PARENTS ARE IN TERRIBLE SHAPE . EVERYONE PLEASE WAKE UP!!

      • Michelle Gibson

        sorry for the caps !

    • @brigj1

      Roger, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. At its most basic, that means obtaining the consent of the governed as broadly as possible, including the consent of ex-felons. Florida’s Voting Restoration Amendment would still “consider criminal behavior so serious that the right to vote should be denied” (Clegg, 2/17/15) i.e. felons still serving their terms, including parole or probation, could not vote, and those convicted of murder or sexual offense would need restoration of civil rights before qualifying to vote.

      You may not trust their judgment, but ex-felons have their own perspective and history that must also factor into the makeup and policies of our government. They have the presumption of innocence and the right to hold our elected officials accountable, by voting, just as you do.

      Each of us has one life to live, and lifetime shunning by disenfranchisement is extreme. Florida’s case-by-case process for restoring voting rights is impractical. It was designed in 1868 to exclude significant segments of the population from voting. 1.68 million ex-felons now live in Florida. Rather then trickle out further judgment we must join ranks with the majority of states in America and restore the right to vote upon completion of all terms of sentence.

    • @brigj1

      Roger, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. As such, governments must obtain the consent of the governed as broadly as possible, including the consent of ex-felons. Florida’s Voting Restoration Amendment would still “consider criminal behavior so serious that the right to vote should be denied” (Clegg, 2/17/15) i.e. felons still serving their terms, including parole or probation, could not vote, and those convicted of murder or felony sexual offense would need restoration of civil rights before qualifying to vote.

      You may not trust their judgment, but ex-felons have their own perspective and history that must also factor into the makeup and policies of our government. They have the presumption of innocence and the right to hold our elected officials accountable, by voting, just as you do.

      Each of us has one life to live, and lifetime shunning by disenfranchisement is extreme. Florida’s case-by-case process for restoring voting rights is impractical. It was designed in 1868 to exclude significant segments of the population from voting. 1.68 million ex-felons now live in Florida. Rather then trickle out further judgment, Florida should join ranks with the majority of states in America and restore the right to vote upon completion of all terms of sentence.

  • montague451

    There is already a process to restore voting rights This is just another way to increase criminal voters. The law is in place for a reason. Think about the ramifications of letting criminals decide who is elected…wake up people these bleeding hearts are killing the country. If you want your voting rights, don’t commit crimes, if you want them back, follow the process to get them back.

    • Michelle Gibson

      I’m shocked at the ignorance and disconnection of what you are saying. You are effected by this old view. In addition you are mass judging a large portion of people . Just amazed. Thank you to closed minded people like you ruining our country actually. You do really we have b=done the tough on crime and war on drugs thing and its not working. You can not put someone in prison for life for stealing . People get out of prison, people commit felonies , pay the dues and are on the streets, you live next to these people, you don’t want them having a place in society , good employment, living a life with pride? what do you think the alternative is ? think about it please not just regurgitate the same old stuff.

      • montague451

        Sure, so when do they not get their rights back? After murder? After 2-3-4-5 convictions? There is a process to get your voting right back already. This is nothing but a liberal hack. You my dear, need to get a clue. If these LAWS are so bad, then make a case. but, when the repeat offender comes back and you say, oh it’s only 3 times they have been convicted, then you need to ask, why you want them to choose who is elected.

        • @brigj1

          The Voting Restoration Amendment would not extend to those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Yes, people recidivate, and they would again lose their right to vote, oftentimes with an enhanced (longer) sentence. But ex-felons are entitled to the presumption of innocence. Lifetime voting bans as a form of collective punishment use the veneer of law to broadly silence older/wiser opinions.

    • @brigj1

      “The law is in place for a reason.”
      Yes, Florida changed its state Constitution in 1868 to restrict the voting power of Florida’s immense black population. See https://thinkprogress.org/more-than-1-5-million-florida-voters-will-be-missing-from-tuesdays-primary-ec745315b6c8#cbe7

      “Think about the ramifications of letting criminals decide who is elected.”
      People in jail with misdemeanors are able to vote. That’s a problem? They are citizens with interests and opinions that are just as valid as yours.

      As for felons, the amendment would not let them vote. The amendment would restore the voting rights of ex-felons, i.e. those who have completed “all terms of sentence including parole or probation” (and not been “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.”) This makes sense. Indeed, as the Declaration of Independence says, it’s self-evident truth: To secure our rights, Governments must derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Ex-felons have fulfilled the terms of their sentences and, as free people, should have the right to vote. (Anyone convicted of another felony would again lose their right to vote.) Otherwise, 10% of Florida’s voting-age population will remain disenfranchised, unable to provide consent, and divided from, rather than united with, America.

      The ramifications of passage? Our legal framework would further embody our Declaration’s self-evident truth that all men (and women) are created equal.

      “If you want (voting rights) back, follow the process to get them back.”
      You seem wedded to a process that was a cornerstone of Jim Crow. The vast majority of states don’t use this process. The Voting Restoration Amendment is not a Democrat vs Republican issue, it’s one of Jim Crow Florida vs the 21st Century. We have the power as citizens to repeal this undemocratic process. Use it!

      • montague451

        Is everything “Jim Crow” that you detest? Get a grip man. This is not just in Florida. What’s the law in NY or California? The process is totally democratic. It is the law. Change the law then. I’m not about keeping anyone from voting that can contribute. Why do we have voting? So the people that are citizens that contribute to society can duly elect. why do people lose there voting rights? Because they have broken the very laws that society made for them to prove they can live in a civil society and contribute. Not contribute, no participation. This is not a trophy for everyone world…they do have a pathway to get the right to vote back. If they endear it as much as they should and desire to regain it, then follow the process.

        • @brigj1

          “Is everything ‘Jim Crow’ that you detest?”
          “Jim Crow” was social policy, and yes, I detest that it was formulated and that it persists. Its presence in Florida’s Constitution warps our electoral process, as intended. Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave context to this awful practice after removing the fourth Confederate statue in New Orleans. Substitute Florida’s disenfranchisement clause for his description of the statues and it’s just as powerful: http://pulsegulfcoast.com/2017/05/transcript-of-new-orleans-mayor-landrieus-address-on-confederate-monuments

          “This is not just in Florida.”
          Florida has 6% of the U.S. population and more than 25% of its disenfranchised voters. (1.7M FL, 6.1M U.S.) Florida disenfranchises ex-felons for a longer period of time, on a far larger scale, than any other state. Many crimes here are classified as felonies while other states treat them as misdemeanors. In so doing, Florida balloons the number of disenfranchised voters.

          “What’s the law in NY or California?”
          NY, CA: Felons on parole (or in prison) may not vote. For info on all states: http://sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Felony-Disenfranchisement-Primer.pdf

          “The process is totally democratic. It is the law. Change the law then.”
          Depends on what you mean by “totally” democratic. The disenfranchisement clause is not just a law, it is part of the state Constitution. Where elected offices require “50% + 1” to win, passing an amendment requires “60% + 1”, which is 1.5 “YES” votes for every 1 “NO” vote. Yes, there will be a vote, but the bar is much higher. (Note: There won’t be a vote without gathering 700,000 additional petitions https://www.MiamiRights.com by next February.)

          “I’m not about keeping anyone from voting that can contribute.”
          We all have our histories and interests, we all need a say about war and peace. We have families to consider, and public lands, environment and health care to manage. Everyone’s opinion matters, and so we don’t use land ownership or a poll tax to regulate voting. We can all contribute.

          “Why do people lose their voting rights? Because they have broken the very laws that society made for them to prove they can live in a civil society and contribute.”
          That’s why most states don’t let people serving their sentences vote. However, they restore voting rights upon completion. Florida’s lifetime ban on voting imposes a “civil death” that precludes having “consent of the governed.” 10% of our voting-age population now pays taxes without representation. That’s not a formula for civil society.

  • ELA

    The states that paid off the most “in blood” to defeat King George!s Red Coats (1770s), do not allow any citizen to lose their voting rights ( including inmates)….it is only Torrie ideology that supports voter restrictions, the Torres fled America upon the British surrender …….the law makers responsible for the treasonous state of affairs in Florida need to be imprisoned themselves for crimes against the people…..!