As much as Gov. Rick Scott likes to make the rules, it looks like his Cabinet's idea for making new hurdles for ex-convicts to have their civil rights restored was pulled out of their collective asses, according to implications from a recent study by the Florida Parole Commission.
The study says just 11.1 percent of ex-cons who have their civil rights restored in the past two years returned to being in the custody of the state corrections department. On the other hand, last year's Florida Department of Corrections study showed that 33.1 percent of all inmates released from prison since 2001 usually found themselves back in prison within three years.
In light of this display of policy failure, the champion of the voter suppression law for former felons, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, somehow still thinks the rights-restoration process is working well -- although she didn't address the actual findings.
"I am pleased with the Parole Commission's report, which clearly demonstrates their hard work to ensure a smooth and expeditious application process for the restoration of civil rights," Bondi said in a statement.
Although it seems pretty clear that there's a correlation between rights restoration and reduced recidivism rates, there is already a decline in the number of ex-cons getting their civil rights back.
In 2009, nearly 25,000 ex-felons had their rights restored. That number dropped to around 5,700 in 2010.
It's likely that number will go even lower in 2011, considering the state's new policy implemented by the governor and his Cabinet.
The new law requires anyone convicted of a felony in a state -- from rapists and murderers who get released from prison down to those with marijuana or felony DUI convictions -- have to wait at least five years to have their rights restored to vote, be selected for jury duty, or get a state license.
For the most serious crimes, cons have to wait seven years after serving their sentences.
The original law before Scott showed up was automatic restoration of civil rights, but according to the Florida Current, the new policy caused 60,000 former felons to become ineligible for rights restoration.
So why was this policy decision made? Aside from the political talking points that have been thrown out there by Scott supporters and left-wing talking heads, it really looks like -- as we said earlier -- that they pulled this one out of their asses.
"The Board's action was based on their belief that it is appropriate to grant the restoration of civil rights only to individuals who have demonstrated over a period of time that they are committed to living a crime-free life," the parole commission report says. "The Board reasoned that this waiting period provides them with the opportunity to determine whether, in fact, the person has made that commitment."
Sympathy to criminals isn't exactly a popular platform in political realms, but then again, neither is implementing policy on a hunch.
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