Florida Felons Will Have Civil Rights Back Sooner |TODAY|
Submitted by dan. on 2007-04-06 20:19.
lorida moved Thursday to allow felons to more easily get their civil rights back after they serve their sentences, moving a step away from what some called an unfair remnant of a darker past. 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 automatically begin the restoration process for felons once they complete their sentences.
Until Thursday, many had to go before the clemency board for a hearing, which only happens a few times a year and has a large backlog of people waiting to be heard.
The change, which takes effect immediately, doesn't include the right to have a gun, which still isn't restored automatically for people with felony convictions. It does, however, make it easier for ex-felons to get occupational licenses, which are denied to people who haven't had their civil rights restored.
The lone opponent on the board was Attorney General Bill McCollum, also a Republican, who said that many felons aren't reformed and don't deserve the right to immediately return as full members of society, but should have to earn the right back by staying crime free for a certain time.
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 high priority initiatives this year aims to put violent probation violators back in prison in most cases.
McCollum didn't directly accuse Crist of being soft on crime, but said the new rule was.
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