Clemency Rules: Controversial?

After the trial is over, the work of the criminal defense attorney is done and the convicted felon has served his or her time, the next step is reentering society and the reinstatement of civil rights.

Along those lines, this past March the Clemency Board approved changes to the clemency rules. The most controversial change reinstated a requirement that those seeking restoration must not only submit an application, but also go through a minimum five-year waiting period. If and when a convicted felon is eligible for reinstatement, the applicant must receive approval by the governor and two Cabinet members.

Attorney General Pam Bondi released a special statement to the St. Petersburg Times justifying her decision to adjust the clemency rules. “My goal in approving the new rules was to restore respect for the rights of law-abiding citizens and to reinforce the fact that every felony is a serious breach of the bonds that unite our society.” With the added requirements to request approval and serve a mandatory wait period, all applicants are expected to live crime-free which in theory, would decrease the percentage of felons returning to prison.

Some opponents to the changes argue that if the prisoners have served all of their time and paid their fines, civil rights should be restored – and that extending a convicted felon’s restrictions sends the message that they are not worthy to re-enter society.

Petitions have been signed and debates have risen in whether or not the changes are constitutional. With a clemency meeting approaching (September 22) here is a document defining and explaining the revisedclemency rules.