Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Report: FL Ex-Cons Benefited From Rights Restoration

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Ex-convicts who have their civil rights restored are far less likely to return to a life of crime and go back behind bars. That's what a new report from the Florida Parole Commission details. The commission reported on a period when then-Gov. Charlie Crist had automatically restored civil rights. Former felons were finding jobs, and the recidivism rate for the group was reduced by almost two-thirds.

However, newly elected Gov. Rick Scott struck down the immediate restoration of rights for ex-convicts. The new commission report gives hope to Mark Schlakman of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. He says Scott's administration will revisit the decision made last March.

"If one has an opportunity to view what this report suggests - that there may be a reduction of almost two-thirds in the recidivism rate - that is remarkable."

Under Gov. Scott's rules, all ex-felons must wait at least five years before they can apply to have their rights restored, and those who committed more serious crimes must wait seven years.

Newly-elected Attorney General Pam Bondi led the effort to scrap the Crist-era initiative. When she proposed eliminating the automatic restoration of civil rights, she said it was a "public safety" issue.

"I believe as a 20-year prosecutor that any felony is a serious crime. I believe someone should have to ask to have their rights restored."

Critics see politics at play. They say Florida's ban on granting rights is a relic from the post-Civil War days.

Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho says by making it more difficult to regain the right to vote, the Scott administration is engaging in partisan politics that have roots in the Jim Crow era.

"They're saying, 'We don't want those people voting - they might not vote for us.' These individuals are putting political gain ahead of the needs of the citizens of the state of Florida."

The Governor's press release announcing the Amended Rules of Executive Clemency is available here

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