Ex-felons grow old waiting for civil rights to be restored in Florida08/12/11 Lisa Marzilli
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Today weâ€™re going to talk about civil rights restoration - and specifically, the ways in which Gov. Scott and his cabinet have made it more difficult for ex-felons to get those rights restored.
Florida is one of only three states in the nation that strip people with past felony convictions of their civil rights, even after theyâ€™ve completed their sentences. These rights include the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury and to hold public office. Ex-felons are also barred from applying for certain occupational licenses, making it harder for them to find jobs when they do get out.
Under Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007, civil rights restoration for nonviolent offenders who had completed their sentences became nearly automatic. Itâ€™s important to note, as the Washington Post does, that the rule change by Gov. Crist spurred more than 100,000 ex-felons to earn the ability to register to vote ahead of the 2008 election in which Obama swept Florida. Experts say many of those new voters were likely Democratic-leaning African Americans.
This past March, however Governor Scott and his cabinet decided new rules were in order and they devised a set of their own, making restoration harder than ever. Non-violent offenders now have to wait at least 5 years before being considered for clemency: the wait is 7 yrs. for violent offenders. And if itâ€™s a pardon youâ€™re looking for, itâ€™ll be 10 yrs. before youâ€™ll get a clemency hearing.
Our guest today is Desmond Meade, President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The group was created in 2003 by the Florida ACLU with the goal of achieving permanent constitutional reform in an effort to end the disenfranchisement of ex-felons. Meade is also an ex-offender whoâ€™s been waiting over 7 years to have his own civil rights restored.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is holding its annual convention in Orlando beginning August 19.