No compromise on felons’ rights after Bondi meets with ACLU, NAACPby Dara Kam | March 2nd, 2011
Attorney General Pam Bondi is not backing away from her proposal to do away with Florida’s limited automatic restoration of rights for nonviolent felons after meeting with civil rights advocates today.
But she did say she supported uncoupling current employment restrictions that prevent convicted felons from getting certain occupational licenses unless their civil rights are restored, a lengthy process that could get even more cumbersome if Bondi gets her way.
ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon and Dale Landry, vice president of NAACP Florida conference, met with Bondi for about an hour to discuss proposed clemency rule changes among other things.
The meeting was friendly, Simon said, but Bondi refused to budge on her desire to force felons to wait three to five years to apply to have their rights restored.
“This is a huge problem for the state of Florida,” Simon told reporters afterward. “We’re only going to increase the problem by delaying the period of time for the restoration of civil rights.”
Bondi’s proposal, expected to be voted on at the next clemency meeting on March 8, could add to the a backlog of tens of thousands of applications for restoration of rights that already take the Parole Commission years to process.
Keeping felons who’ve served their time from being able to vote, serve on a jury or hold dozens of professional licenses increases their chances of committing new crimes and going back to prison, Simon said. The system dates back to an 1868 Florida constitutional convention that sought to prevent freed slaves from voting, he said.
“This is the unfinished business of the civil rights movement,” Simon told reporters after the meeting. “People need to know this has a very ugly history.”
Landry called the delay of rights restoration a national issue, but both he and Simon praised Bondi for meeting with them.
“While our opinions on the restoration of civil rights differ, I believe that constructive dialogue is an important part of the process to improve the restoration of civil rights rules,” Bondi, elected in November, said in a statement.
Bondi and the civil rights advocates reached some accord – she agrees that Florida should change the occupational licenses system that bans felons from certain professions, including barbers, air conditioning repair and cosmetology.