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ACLU, NAACP meet with Bondi on civil rights issues

Leaders of the ACLU and NAACP met with Attorney General Pam Bondi Tuesday to lodge their concerns over a Bondi proposal to impose lengthy waiting periods for ex-offenders seeking to regain their civil rights.

Bondi opposes the current streamlined civil rights restoration process instituted four years ago by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet. She says all petitions for clemency should come before the governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Executive Clemency, following a wait period of three to five years. Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet are expected to approve Bondi's changes March 8.

ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon called it a "crisis" that hundreds of thousands of discharged ex-felons in Florida still can't vote, serve on a jury or hold any of dozens of professional licenses. He called it an "ugly" legacy of a post-Civil War constitutional convention that sought to block freed slaves from voting. Simon said giving ex-cons their rights back will increase their chances of becoming productive citizens and reducing the recidivism rate in state prisons.

"This is a huge problem for the state of Florida," Simon told reporters afterward. "We're only going to increase the problem by delaying the period of time for the restoration of civil rights."

Joining Simon at the meeting with Bondi was Dale Landry, leader of the NAACP Tallahassee branch.  The two men praised Bondi for meeting with them and for her support for "de-coupling" the civil rights restoration process from an ex-felon's application for job licenses. 

-- Steve Bousquet

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