Tampa, Fla. (970 WFLA/PICO) – Faith leaders from across Florida and the nation will gathered at the office of Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi on Friday, January 17 to demand reform of civil rights restoration for Floridians with past felony convictions, to recommend policy changes, to announce a plan to unite multi-faith congregations and the families of returning citizens around the issues and to pray.
Leaders from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition as well as clergy and returning citizens will stood together on the third floor of the building housing the Attorney General’s Tampa office to call attention to the fact that Florida is one of only three states to impose lifetime disfranchisement upon conviction of a felony.
“Of the approximately 6 million disfranchised citizens in the Unites States, one-quarter are Floridians,” said Desmond Meade, one of the event’s organizers and President of FRRC. “Florida’s disfranchisement rate is the highest in the country – more than 10 percent of the state’s voting age population is disfranchised, and a shocking 23 percent of Florida’s African-American population is disfranchised. Many of those who have lost voting and civil rights are men and women of God: preachers, pastors, deacons and apostles.”
The faith leaders assembled at the Attorney General Tampa’s Office to:
1. Raise awareness about how the current clemency policy has a negative impact on returning citizens;
2. Deliver proposed changes to the current clemency policy;
3. Personally deliver a request that Attorney General Pam Bondi meet with key religious leaders and impacted individuals to discuss to need for reform; and
4. Announce plans to unite multi-faith congregations throughout Florida to support clemency changes based on the faith principles of forgiveness, redemption and restoration.
Under new restrictions passed by Florida Governor Rick Scott’s administration, anyone convicted of a felony must wait between five to seven years upon completion of all portions of their sentence probation before they are allowed to apply to have their civil rights restored. There is an additional application processing time of approximately six years, bringing a total wait time of 11-13 years. Even after waiting 11-13 years, based on the current pattern for rights restoration, an individual has less than 1% chance of having their civil rights restored.
Photo Credit: Heather Wilson – PICO National Network