Monday, October 15, 2007

Still Waiting in Florida

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida was right when he called for tearing down the barriers that prevent as many as 950,000 ex-offenders from voting in his state. But the new rules that were put in place to help former inmates reclaim their rights have fallen far short of what’s needed to bring democracy back to Florida.

The number of petitioners seeking to restore their rights has increased, but the process is excruciatingly slow and strewn with unnecessary hurdles. Unless the rules are further refined and the process speeded up, many ex-offenders will go to their graves without being permitted to vote. And until their voting rights are restored, many of these people will remain locked out of scores of state-regulated occupations for which restoration is listed as a condition of employment.

As a first step, the state needs to sever that connection, as was recommended by the ex-offender task force appointed by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor. No reasonable person would want to see a sex offender working in a school or a career embezzler employed in a bank. But the practice of barring convicted felons from a whole range of jobs that have nothing to do with their offenses shuts them out of the economy and makes it more likely that they will return to jail.

The state should also end the practice of generally denying restoration to people who owe restitution to their victims. Restitution is, of course, important and should be paid. But it’s illogical to limit these ex-offenders’ employment opportunities and their ability to pay the compensation they owe.

Governor Crist served an important public service when he raised this issue. To ensure that ex-offenders get back their rights, the Legislature and he will have to do a lot more. What’s needed is for Florida to bring its policies into line with those of 39 other states that automatically restore voting rights once former inmates are released from prison or when they finish probation or parole. Only then will democracy return to Florida.

A New York Times Editorial published 10/12/07

1 comment:

Maggee said...

Yes the rights of nonviolent offenders upon their release should be allowed to vote.
Also they should be allowed to join the Armed Forces. They also should be allowed to have their Probation recinded, so that they can become whole once more. As the Constitution states. To be able to Vote, To speak their minds, to have representation for the effects of their daily lives and to be assisted in the return to life before the nonviolent offense disrupted all of the above. If the Penal Systen is a deterrent to Crime, then why are we building More Prisons and why are State budgets overloading the Citizen with costs to perpetuate the Penal ystem? 1. Citizenship to vote
2. Citizenship to join the Armed Forces.
3. Citizenship to join the world that was left behind before the offense.
4. Citizenship to be afforded the rights of all Programs to assist and prosper from to keep the families whole and not on welfare, only as needed, and programs to assist the retraining of inmates to the new world to become a part of the life that is now. This is not anymore than is afforded to anyone coming to these United States or by birth. An American citizent should not be further punished but rewarded for the strides they can make to correct the injustices that appear in all of our lives in a correct way by not violence but by the Power of the Voting machine.I would appreciate any responses so I can get the feel of the citizens of Florida. Mind you most of what I have reiterated has been adopted by many States, mostly because of Budgetary constraints. But the followup should not be Probation..But Prowork and ProFamily and ProAssist.