Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Florida: Restoration of Rights Summit

Mark Schlakman of Florida State University has written an editorial for today's issue of the Tallahassee Democrat. It reports that more 300 "community leaders, advocates, law-enforcement officials and other experts from around the state" will meet at the Capitol today and Wednesday for Florida's first "Restoration of Rights Summit." Participants will focus on "a range of ex-offender re-entry issues, including barriers to employment, transitional housing needs, mental-health problems, delinquent child-support payments and substance abuse."

The article notes Gov. Charlie Crist "probably will tout progress on the rights-restoration front," but emphasizes that "300,000-plus older rights-restoration cases that were initially identified by DOC for review and are still under investigation or were determined to be ineligible for expedited processing by the Florida Parole Commission." As a result, "it is clear that much more needs to be done." Schlakman also writes:

... Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink asked me to develop a strategy. She subsequently distributed copies to Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson. It calls for the Clemency Board to: (1) modify the long-standing clemency rule that requires ex-offenders to satisfy restitution obligations as a precondition for rights restoration and (2) break the linkage between rights restoration and eligibility for certain jobs and occupational licenses.

Approximately 40 percent of the ex-offenders who were deemed ineligible for expedited processing were disqualified due to outstanding restitution obligations. Ex-offenders should be required to pay all court-ordered victim restitution, but full payment should not be a pre-condition for rights restoration. Apart from clemency, state officials should re-evaluate relevant enforcement mechanisms to facilitate restitution payments to crime victims along the lines of action taken to address delinquent child-support payments.
Once employment eligibility issues are decoupled from the process, it wouldn't be necessary to distinguish violent from nonviolent offenses to determining one's fitness to vote. The multi-tiered review that was established by 2007 rule changes could be collapsed into one to simply verify that ex-offenders had completed their sentences.
The governor could issue an executive order to require state agencies that he supervises to conform employment eligibility criteria for ex-offenders to the language contained in legislation that passed the Senate this year but died in the House. That bill said ex-offenders could not be denied certain employment or occupational licenses based solely upon the status of their civil rights. Sink and Bronson could issue similar orders, and lawmakers could revisit these matters next
With another stroke of his pen, Crist, with support from at least two Cabinet members, also could enable many ex-offenders to regain their civil rights and register to vote. Only then will the rights-restoration process reflect the fundamental fairness that the governor has been talking about.

See article here.


Anonymous said...

finally a Governor with some common sense. I support Crist. I for one think crist would make a great Vice President.

Anonymous said...

Yes you are helping the people to Florida people. The main restoration is 40 percent only. 300,00 emphasizes more restoration cases. The governor supervise the eligibility of employment in Crist.
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katiesmily said...

The Summit’s short-term goal is to gather input from other agencies and community organizations to identify barriers to ex-offenders're-entry into society,such as restoration of their civil rights, and to determine viable solutions to those barriers.
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jim said...

Restoration of civil rights was a step in the right direction for florida. However their states laws on expungement is in need of a overhaul. If a person has kept out of trouble for 20 years. You would think that they have proved that they have earned the right to expunge their record. Their record follows them for the rest of their lives. How long must one keep paying for their crime?

jim said...

The state of Florida did do the right thing in restoring the civil rights of ex-offenders.The next step is to make it possible for these offenders to expunge their ciminal records.The State does not allow for the expungement of past convictions.Once your branded your branded for life. Even if you get a full Pardon. The pardon does not allow for the expungement of records. I have looked into expunging my record from a crime I commited in 1991. FDLE web site has all the info on expungement requirments. So my take on the restoration of civil rights is a joke.Sure the right to vote is very important. But that is all you get.Your still behind the 8 ball when it comes to employment.The employer does a back ground check and the FDLE gives them all the info they need.It has been 18 years since my conviction and I still have to answer to the question by employers(what is this conviction in florida)Its time that the law makers in Florida step up and do the right thing and pass a law that after 10 or even 15 years a person can expunge their record. It's the right thing to do.Reward those who have stayed out of trouble.

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