A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers is looking to create an alternative to restore the rights of former inmates.
Today, former felons must get their rights restored by applying to the Office of Executive Clemency, or the OEC.
Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach) says he’s heard from Florida veterans who want to get their rights restored, but can’t because of the backlog of thousands of applicants.
“Vietnam veterans, who came back from the war dealing with certain issues, maybe they’re not on drugs, they’re an alcoholic, and they commit a crime,” he said. “They have lived 40 years crime free life. They’re productive members of society. They can’t vote. They can’t own a gun. And, when they call me, and ask me about the process, and I have to tell them that, ‘yes, you can apply through the OEC, and yes, there is a backlog of over a decade, and maybe someday, you’ll get a hearing and get your rights restored.’ I’ve had them tell me, ‘I’ll die before I get that opportunity. So, I’m not even going to apply. That’s wrong, and we can do better.”
Rep. Kim Daniels (D-Jacksonville) says she too understands the value of the restoration of all rights.
“I must be a voice for second chances because I am a recipient of it,” she said. I’m a person who used to be on the streets in this city, committing crimes, doing drugs, and because I got a second chance, now I’m a member of the House of Representatives.”
That’s why Byrd along with Daniels are sponsoring a measure to provide a judicial alternative to Florida’s Executive Clemency process.
“Because every crime is unique and the set of facts and circumstances surrounding that crime are unique to that individual, our judges—the people who sentence those individuals—should be the people who have the opportunity to restore their economic rights and their constitutional rights,” Byrd stated.
Under the bill, the petitioner would still have to notify the State Attorney, who can still object to the petition. Byrd says the measure also does not block the Governor’s authority to grant clemency.
Meanwhile, an effort is underway to constitutionally restore the rights of former inmates automatically and to put that on the 2018 ballot.
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