Former felons will now find it easier to get their rights back in Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush and state Cabinet members voted Thursday to ease requirements for restoration of a person’s rights, but Florida is not granting automatic restoration like most other states.
Four times a year, hundreds of people crowd into the clemency meetings in Tallahassee, their faces filled with apprehension, their criminal history files piled high in the front of the room.
Michael Bruno pulled a gun outside an Orlando area pizzeria in the mid 90s. He did three years in prison and went on to chiropractic school. Michael brought his mother to tell the governor he was a good guy.
"One of the things that I want to do is clear our family’s good name."
It took six years for Michael to weave the cumbersome process to get his rights back, but Thursday he finally accomplished the goal.
"We all moan about certain things but then people never get up and cast their vote when they can. So many people don’t use their right and that was one of the things I really missed."
Thousands more are caught in a bureaucratic log jam, so Gov. Jeb Bush and the clemency board members finally did what they been asked to do for a decade to make the process easier.
From now on most non violent offenders will have their rights back in less than a year, everyone after 15 years.
The change still isn’t the full automatic restoration of rights for everyone, but advocates say it’s a big step forward, so for many who have paid their dues, this change will be a welcome Christmas present.