Florida speeds felons’ efforts to regain rights

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Most Florida felons will regain voting and other civil rights more quickly after completing their sentences under changes approved Thursday by the governor and the state clemency board. Republican Gov. Charlie Crist pushed the change, saying the rights to vote, hold office and serve on a jury were fundamental to being part of a democratic society. With 3-1 vote by Crist and the other members of the state’s clemency board, state officials will begin the restoration process for felons once they complete their sentences. Previously, many felons needed to go before the board, which can take years to hear a case because of backlogs. The change doesn’t include the right to have a gun, which still isn’t restored automatically for people with felony convictions. But it does make it easier for ex-felons to get occupational licenses, denied to people who haven’t had their rights restored. Florida was one of three U.S. states, along with Kentucky and Virginia, that required ex-felons to take action to restore their civil rights no matter how long they had been out of prison. Other states have waiting periods before restoration, though most restore rights automatically when felons complete their sentence. The lone opponent on the Florida board was Attorney General Bill McCollum, who said that many felons aren’t reformed and should have to earn their rights by staying crime-free. Few have accused Crist of being too lenient on criminals. When he served in the state Senate he was known as “Chain Gang Charlie,” and one of his priorities is to return violent probation violators to prison. The Crist plan was a compromise with other board members who were concerned about going too easy on dangerous criminals. The 20 percent of felons finishing their sentence who have committed any one of a number of serious crimes will still need the clemency board to sign off on their case to get their rights back.last_img read more