By: Lanetra Bennett
March 19, 2014
Tallahassee, FL - Clergy members and residents from across the state of Florida united to demand that convicted felons have their rights restored.
Nearly one-hundred people marched in silence. They wore American flag bandannas over their mouths to symbolize having been silenced by policy that keeps convicted felons in Florida from having their civil rights immediately restored.
Miguel Adams from Orlando was released from prison in 2000 after serving 3 and a half years. In response to not having civil rights, he says, "It makes me feel this anger in me. But, it's a good anger that pretty much puts me in the position to fight and direct my anger toward changing these laws."
Faith leaders and returning citizens started marching from First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee Wednesday morning.
The group says more than 1.5 million Floridians are disenfranchised, like Lashanna Tyson from Orlando, who served 13 years in prison.
Tyson says, "When I need it the most, the education, the jobs, everything I needed to reintegrate back into society successfully was removed from me systematically due to my felony conviction. I worked all day and night in prison for free and I couldn't get a job out here at McDonald's making minimum wage."
The march ended at the old Capitol with a rally.
They're demanding the governor and the Clemency Board reverse policy that would restore felons' rights.
During the rally, Tallahassee pastor, Gregory James, said, "We can sit in prison cells and sit on prison bunks and be counted in a census. But, when it comes to society, we cannot be counted in the voting booth. Give us our ballots!"
After the rally, the group sat inside the Clemency Board's first hearing of the year in the Cabinet room at the Capitol.
News Release: The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
Orlando - Faith leaders from across the state will descend on Florida's Capitol Building for this year's first hearing of the Board of Executive Clemency on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.
Leaders will demand that Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and CFO Jeff Atwater reverse their regressive policy and restore civil rights for Floridians with past felony convictions.
PICO United Florida will recommend policy changes, offer prayer, and announce a plan to unite multi-faith congregations and the families of returning citizens around this critical issue that impacts over 1.5 million Floridians.
At 8:45 a.m. ET, leaders from PICO United Florida and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition as well as clergy and returning citizens will march from First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee on 110 N. Adams Street to the Historic Capitol Building where they will hold a press conference at 9:00 a.m. ET to call attention to the fact that Florida is one of only three states to impose lifetime disfranchisement upon conviction of a felony.
"Of the approximately 6 million disfranchised citizens in the United States, one-quarter are Floridians," said Desmond Meade, one of the event's organizers and Lifelines to Healing Director for PICO United Florida. "Florida's disfranchisement rate is the highest in the country - more than 10 percent of the state's voting age population is disfranchised, and a shocking 23 percent of Florida's African-American population is disfranchised."
Under restrictions implemented by Governor Rick Scott and his Cabinet, anyone convicted of a felony must wait between five to seven years upon completion of all portions of their sentence before they are allowed to apply to have their civil rights restored. There is an additional application processing time of approximately six years, bringing a total wait time of 11-13 years. Even after waiting 11-13 years, based on the current pattern for rights restoration, an individual has less than one percent chance of having their civil rights restored.
As a part of 9:00 a.m. ET press conference at the steps of the Historic Capitol Building, faith leaders will deliver proposed changes based on the faith principles of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration, and request that Attorney General Pam Bondi and other members of the Executive Clemency Board meet with key religious leaders and impacted individuals to discuss the need for reform.
What: March and Press conference to demand reform of restoration of civil rights for Floridians with past felony convictions.
Who: Clergy, returning citizens, leaders from across the state of Florida and representatives from the PICO Florida's Lifeline to Healing Campaign and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
Where: March starts at First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee - 110 N. Adams Street and ends at the steps of the Historic Capitol Building - 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee.
When: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - March starts at 8:45 a.m. - Press Conference at 9:00 a.m.