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115,000 Felons Have Rights Restored In Governors First Year

June 17th, 2008 by flanews

More than a hundred thousand ex-offenders can now vote, serve on a jury and hold public office. Today Governor Charlie Crist says its just the first step in restoring the rights of all nonviolent felons but as Whitney Ray tells us, there are hundreds of thousand more without civil rights and very little money to get the job done.

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Bernie DeCastro traded his prison stripes for a business suit. DeCastros running for an Ocala House seat, a goal he could never reach if he hadnt had his rights restored.

People can change. Im a living example. I was in prison four times and Ive been out of prison now for 25 years. I have five children all in the school system. I have my own company, said DeCastro.

In the last year, since the Governor pushed a plan allowing non-violent offenders to regain their rights automatically, 115,000 felons can now pursue their futures. The Governor said its just a start.

We have to remain vigilant and stay on it and create the opportunity for more people who deserve it to get their rights restored as quickly as possible, said Governor Charlie Crist.

There are still more than 300,000 people waiting for their civil rights to be restored. Mark Schlakman, with the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, says the Governor should separate rights restoration from employment issues, an idea which has so far failed.

When employment eligibility issues are decoupled from the clemency process there would be absolutely no reason to have a three tiered review, said Schlakman.

The economy is also slowing down the process.

Another obstacle felons face when trying to have their rights restored is the budget. The parole Commission lost 1/5th of its funds. Which means there are nine fewer employees to do the work which is already backlogged. A restoration of rights summit was held at the capitol today.

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The event will continue tomorrow as lawmakers and community advocates continue to discuss ways to keep ex-offenders out of jail.

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