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Rights Restorations Delayed

March 12th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Since Governor Charlie Crist pushed Automatic rights restoration for non violent felons two years ago, 130 thousand have gotten their rights back, But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, more than twice that many are still waiting and will have to wait a long time.

They come wearing suits, sweaters, or plaid shirts and sneakers. These are the people seeking Clemency, their files stacked high in front of the governor.

Im sorry said one applicant. They come with stories of woe and rehabilitation.
No more honkie tonks. No more ever for me says another.

Keith Day hired a lawyer, only to find out he was one of the people who had already gotten his rights back. He left with a full pardon.

Nobody contacted me says the Gainesville man. I had no idea, I would not have come down here probably if I had know that. I would have saved a lot of money on a lawyer.

Keiths Wife Kellie says the pardon will make life easier. What it means to us as a family is it will open doors for him so he can get his contractors license and provide for our family she says.

Many others are told no by the Governor. Too many say activists. By some estimates there are three hundred thousand former felons who have paid their debt to society, and are still waiting for their rights back.

Civil rights groups say the state is wasting millions investigating people, only to determine if they are fit to vote. Mark Schlakman from the Collins Center for Human Rights has been a leading voice protesting that clemency is being made too difficult. Funds that are being expended to conduct these background investigations says Schlakman could be directed toward higher priority needs.

But besides speeding the process up, Charlie Crist says the hearings are worthwhile.
Some of these cases are so violent and so heinous that I think its important to have the opportunity to hear what the facts are before you automatically grant says Crist.

The board meets four times. It handles a 100 cases each meeting. With over 3 hundred thousand cases, tight budgets, and fewer than 600 heard each year, many former felons will never get a chance to make their case.

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