Bondi Wants to Undo Rules For Restoring Felons’ Rights by Brent Kallestad

Posted: March 5, 2011 in News and politics

By BRENT KALLESTAD, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: Friday, February 25, 2011 at 3:44 a.m.

 

 

TALLAHASSEE | Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday that recent rule changes have made it too easy for nonviolent felons to get their civil rights restored after completing their sentences, and she wants to undo them.

Bondi, a former Tampa prosecutor, appears to have the support of at least one other Cabinet member and Gov. Rick Scott.

That’s a majority of the four-member Board of Executive Clemency. Florida’s three cabinet members and Scott, all Republicans, sit on the board, which could revise the existing rules as early as next month in a special meeting.

“I fundamentally and philosophically oppose the concept of the automatic restoration of civil rights,” Bondi said in a statement.

“I believe that every convicted felon must actively apply for the restoration of his or her civil rights and that there should be a mandatory waiting period before applying.

“The restoration of civil rights for any felon must be earned, it is not an entitlement.”

Bondi’s proposal would eliminate changes made by former Gov. Charlie Crist, who sought to ease a backlog of thousands of cases awaiting board action and help former felons turn their lives around by more quickly restoring their voting and other civil rights.

Scott told The Associated Press that he had not reviewed Bondi’s proposal but supported it in concept.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also favors the measure, a spokesman said.

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and Democratic legislators immediately decried Bondi’s proposal as a step backward and costly, at a time when lawmakers are faced with massive budget constraints.

“Attorney General Bondi’s proposal will benefit no one,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU/Florida.

“Slowing down the restoration of rights process and delaying the reintegration of nonviolent offenders into civil society only wastes tax dollars and makes us less safe.”

“Florida leaders need to eliminate the red tape upon a person’s sentence being served, and allow these individuals to vote,” argued state Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, who is sponsoring a joint resolution that would give voters a chance to decide whether voting rights should be automatically restored.

The existing rules seemed plenty tough at Thursday’s clemency board meeting, when none of the civil rights cases won approval.

The board rejected a pardon request by Frank Dixon Gough, a Protestant pastor from Shalimar who received a restoration of civil rights nearly 15 years ago and also turned down Kassandra Lynn Lansing, a 61-year-old transsexual from Port Richey, who was seeking a restoration of civil rights.

In other action, Paolo Muller, a 53-year-old restaurant waiter in West Palm Beach and recovering alcoholic, was pardoned while Dempsey M. Allen of Jasper received authority to possess firearms.

An avid hunter, Allen’s hunting has been limited to bow and arrows.

Muller, who came to the United States from Italy, needed the pardon to proceed with his bid to become an American citizen.

This story appeared in print on page B2

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