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Rights Restoration Slow

September 29th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

A new report due this week will show a backlog of more than a sixty thousand people who are waiting for their civil rights to be restored. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the wait can often take years, because the caseload continues to grow at a rate of five thousand a month.

Alan Crotzer spent more than two decades in prison for a rape DNA showed he didnt commit. It still took him more than a year to get his rights back after being released. Even for the guilty, Crotzer says getting your rights back is part of being rehabilitated.

Getting your rights back means that Im a part of society again,” Crotzer said. “It makes me be part of society; I can feel like Im back where I need to be. If you dont have any rights, then how can you feel like youre part of society?

For former felons, the wait for rights can take years.

The board got hit by the biggest cuts of any law enforcement agency 20 percent, all at a time when cases soared.

After the flood, the error rate went up, giving 13 people their rights in error. CFO Alex Sink says it is a disaster.

Its a serious problem,” Sink said. “It’s a budget issue. We need to address it with the legislature.

The odds of reducing the backlog anytime soon are slim, but the commission is asking for help.

Weve asked the legislature for 20 additional full-time employees, Parole Commission Chairman Fred Dunphy said.

What does Dunphy believe are odds are of getting them?

I dont know, these are tough economic times and you know, wed be grateful for anything we do get,” he said.

Until their rights are restored, ex-felons cant be licensed in a trade. Advocates say thats wrong and that law enforcement should be deciding who is a risk and who isnt…not a licensing board.

Since the state sped up the process of restoring civil rights in 2007, more than 145 thousand former felons have gotten the right to vote. In most cases, the restoration of rights does not include the right to own a firearm.

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News, Voting | 1 Comment »

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