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Miami-Dade activists in Tallahassee to rally support for criminal justice bill

Liberty City resident Phillip Baine came to Tallahassee Thursday with about a dozen other folks from around the state to urge the Governor and lawmakers to support legislation that would ease employment restrictions on convicted criminals who have completed their sentences.

Baine, 52, has tried applying for several jobs and for housing assistance only to meet road blocks, that he says have kept him from being promoted or finding affordable housing. He and several other Miami-Dade activists want legislator to approve legislation by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that would make it easier for Baine and others, who have served their sentences, to get a job. The timing of their visit was pegged to Thursday's Florida Clemency Board meeting.

The groups, including the ACLU of Florida, Florida Acorn, People for the American Way, and the Florida Restoration Coalition, also want legislation that would amend the Florida Constitution to provide civil rights, like voting, to those who have completed their sentences.

"Every time I try to take a step forward, I keep getting pushed back," Baine said. Baine was convicted in 1975 of carrying a concealed weapon and in the early 90s of cocaine possession. He said he never was sentenced to jail time of either of the charges, and the latter case was suppose to be withheld from his record.

Though he has managed to get factory-type jobs, Baine said every time he has been eligible for a promotion subsequent criminal record searches keep him from moving up.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is organizing an April 1st Day of Action. According to the group's website they plan on bringing buses of supporters from Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm-Beach, and Brevard counties to rally and march at the state Capitol.

After the clemency meeting, Crist said he also favors the legislation. "Obviously it's important that we make sure that people have an opportunity to move forward," he said. "They they have a second chance to have a second chance to have gainful employment, be productive citizens."