Automatic Restoration for Ex-Cons?

There are more than 100,000 Floridians stuck in a bureaucratic backlog... all convicted felons who've served their sentences but who aren't allowed by law to vote or get the tools they need to go back to work, all because they need the state to sign off. And now that the system could get even slower.

Here in Florida, just when you think you've done your time, a whole new sentence begins, one that's sidelined an estimated 900,000 ex-felons. They can't vote, can't serve on a jury, can't even get an occupational license to make a living.

“I deny restoration of civil rights.”

First they have to go through the clemency board, which includes Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. Thursday, she dropped a surprise announcement.

“I don't believe that any felony should have an automatic restoration of rights,” Bondi said. “I believe you should have to ask and there should be an appropriate waiting period.”

“When somebody has paid their debt to society, it is paid in full!”

Bondi's recommendation is in stark contrast to a rule spearheaded by former Governor Charlie Crist four years ago. It's supposed to let people convicted of non-violent felonies apply for and automatically have their rights restored.

Faced with a new clemency board that appears determined to tighten the rules, clearing the backlog just became a lot more difficult. That's why advocates want to take the issue all the way to the legislature and beyond.

A newly-filed bill would allow ex-cons to at least obtain occupational licenses without having to deal with the clemency process. Democratic sponsor Chris Smith calls it key to reducing crime, and he wants Bondi to rethink her stance.

“The recidivism rate goes down when people are re-integrated into society,” he said. “Costs to corrections go down when people are integrated back into society, so she may philosophically feel that way today, but as she studies it more and understands it more, I don't know if she's had to face this issue.”

For the attorney general, it's an issue of personal responsibility about making Florida's convicted felons earn back what they've lost, and once again the debate over felon rights is quickly becoming unshackled.

The clemency board convenes for a special meeting in two weeks. Bondi says she wants members to vote to eliminate the automatic restoration of felon rights. Meanwhile, the NAACP and the ACLU plan to protest.


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  • by ExCon Location: Dothan on Feb 26, 2011 at 08:56 PM
    You ignorant hillbillies have no clue what you're talking about!I'm a past convicted felon.I have an education.I have already taken a 20yr. retirement from my first job and am now working as a sales rep for a medical company.I'm putting my son through college and have two other kids in private school.I have a nice house outside the circle,between 231n and 84w.We've all made mistakes.People can change.Not letting someone do their job and make money to feed their family is the quickest way I can think of to force a person to rob and steal.
  • by joey Location: dothan on Feb 26, 2011 at 08:42 PM
    This shows that our legal system isnt working. It should be revamped into a justice system. When a crime is paid for it should be paid for, not keep paying the rest of your life, unless of course that is the punishment for that particular crime. Punishments other than prison might often give better justice and greatly lower the rate of repeat offenders. Someone convicted of a crime might be forced to wear a sign in public with his closest friends and loved ones looking on, the sign saying that he is a thief or philanderer, or whatever his or her crime is. The person might be forced to wear this sign all the time he isnt at work or asleep for however long the prison sentence would have been. Public floggings with a cattle prod or some other painful device might work too. Any executions should be done in the public square as in years past so that any member of the public could take their child to see what happens when you do bad things.
  • by BK Location: E'prise on Feb 25, 2011 at 09:32 AM
    I support Atty Gen Bondi. Most of these ex cons will end up back in the prison system as shown by historical statistics. Most aren't intelligent to vote and either won't vote or vote for whoever they are told to vote for.
  • by rodsmith on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:33 PM
    in my opinion she's a traitor to her Oath of Office to support and protect the U.S Constituion and it's law.
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