Crist to restore Felons Civil Rights?

04/02/07 Mitch E Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

 

Florida Governor Charlie Crist said today he expects to announce this week his plan to restore voting and civil rights for most felons who complete their sentences.

 

During his campaign for Governor, both Crist and his Democratic challenger, Jim Davis, said they would work to change the law, in which Florida is out of step with all but 2 states in NOT automatically restoring felons their rights once they serve their  time.

 

In an interview conducted by WMNF’s Rob Lorei for broadcast Thursday night on PBS television affiliate WEDU in the Tampa Bay Area, Crist said he was prepared to unveil his plan sometime this week, despite the objections of one of his Cabinet Members, Attorney General Bill McCollum.

 

In an op-ed column published in today’s St Petersburg Times, McCollum called such a plan “reckless and irresponsible” (roll tape#1 o.q.”to have a productive life”)

 

Florida law allows the Governor to make such an executive order – if 2 Cabinet officials agree with him.  CEO Alex Sink has expressed such support in the past.  But Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson is said to have been resistant in the past.

 

A spokesman for Commissioner Bronson said that as of this afternoon, negotiations between the Clemency Board and the Bronson were still ongoing.

 

If in fact Crist announces that he and 2 Cabinet members have reached agreement, it would be a significant development.  Randy Berg is the Executive Director of the Florida Justice Institute based in Miami.  He applauds the Governor if he does go ahead with such a plan (roll tape#2 o.q.”at sentencing”)

 

Similar feedback has come from the ACLU as well.  ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon says most felons are prevented from working because of their lack of civil rights.  He says to require them to pay such court-ordered fees before they get employment is a ‘backwards’ approach to rights restoration.  Randy Berg from the Florida Justice Institute agrees, and says it would be unconstitutional as well (roll tape#3 o.q.”do not”)

 

To demonstrate his passion for the issue, in the television interview the Governor discussed a woman he met recently while conducting office hours in Lake Worth.

A single mother of 4 kids, the woman was arrested for stealing money from the bank she worked at.  But after serving a month in jail, Crist said she was working her, attending community college, trying to get ahead (roll tape#4 o.q.”in the future”)

 According to Randy Berg, there are approximately 900,000 ex felons in Florida who have NOT had their civil rights restored. 

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