Nikki Fried calls on Florida's Republican-dominated cabinet to 'do our jobs' and restore felons' civil rights


Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is getting impatient that Florida’s Republican-dominated clemency board isn’t using its power to restore the civil rights of felons who have been released from prison.

Fried, the only Democrat on the panel, which includes DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, wants new rules so people who have committed low-level felony offenses can get their civil rights restored.

“The time is now for the governor and my clemency board colleagues to do our jobs and do right by those who have paid their debt to society,” Fried said in a statement Wednesday.

The governor's office said Thursday that DeSantis is "considering many proposals" to reduce a clemency case backlog but did not provide specifics.

Patronis’ office also said that moving forward it will be "reviewing any proposed changes to rules and processes for the clemency board," but it did not provide details about what Patronis would like to see. Moody's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The process of restoring civil rights for felons has changed over the years under the leadership of different clemency boards. Fried wants her colleagues on the panel to go back to rules approved under former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007.

Under Crist's rules, felons whose crimes were not considered violent regained their civil rights upon release from prison after the state made sure they had paid restitution to victims and did not have pending criminal charges.
In 2011, then-Gov. Rick Scott rescinded the 2007 rules and pushed through changes that required felons to wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored by the clemency board.

Voters in November 2018 overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment aimed at restoring the voting rights of felons who have completed terms of their sentences. But when lawmakers implemented the measure, known as Amendment 4, they required offenders to pay all financial obligations before getting voting rights back. That prompted civil-rights and voting-rights groups to file a legal challenge that is pending in federal court.

Fried said the clemency board can move forward with changes, regardless of the legal fight.

“As the clemency board was not named in the Amendment 4 litigation, we have no good reason to wait any longer on restoring the fundamental civil rights to which our fellow citizens are entitled,” Fried said.

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