Citing the ”holy week of redemption,” Florida Gov. Charlie Crist persuaded the state clemency board to pass a compromise plan that makes it easier for most ex-convicts to regain the right to vote, serve on a jury, and get jobs, reports the Miami Herald. The group voted 3-1, with Attorney General Bill McCollum warning that the change would incite crime. ‘The time is now for us to do what is right,” Crist said. “I believe in simple human justice and that when somebody has paid their debt to society, it is paid in full.”
The change will bring Florida’s procedure for restoring the civil rights of felons who have served their sentences more in line with the 47 other states that allow for automatic restoration. Only Virginia and Kentucky do not. Florida’s measure won’t automatically restore civil rights to the estimated 950,000 former felons believed to be living in the state, but it will significantly expedite the process. McCollum, who distributed a letter from the Florida Sheriffs Association opposing the plan, said it will reward repeat offenders and make “our state less safe.” At least 30,400 ex-convicts have already applied for clemency and would be eligible for the expedited process. Another 138,000 appear to have fulfilled another condition of the new clemency rules: They have remained arrest-free for 15 years.