Convicted felon advocates for restoration of civil rights

Should convicted felons’ civil rights be restored?

Neil Volz, of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was convicted of conspiracy as part of the Jack Ambramoff lobbying scandal more than a decade ago.

“I (pleaded) guilty to fraud charges in 2007 for some stupid decisions, some selfish decisions that I made and that changed my life,” Volz said.

Volz said the felony conviction on his record affected him as he reintegrated into society.

“I got to live with a label of having a felony conviction which impacted my ability to work and find housing,” Volz said.

Volz believes he and 1.6 million other nonviolent offenders who served their time should have their civil rights restored.

“It’s about what people do once they’ve paid their debt to society,” Volz said.

Volz said this proposal would benefit others, not just former criminals.

“There’s this lid that’s being placed on a lot of people, and if we take that lid off, all of us can benefit in terms of safer communities, a better economy, and just healthier families,” Volz said.

Florida loses approximately $385 million per year in economic impact spent, which is spent on court and prison costs as thousands of offenders often return to prison instead of going to work, according to new research done by the Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables.

Five of six state prisoners arrested at least once during the nine years after their release, according to updated recidivism numbers from a U.S. Department of Justice study.

“When people are fully able to engage their community they become more active participants in the community,” Volz said.

Gov. Rick Scott and the state cabinet voted to end the policy to atomically restore felons’ rights seven years ago. Felons have to wait five years and apply for a review to the state. That process is currently being challenged in court.

WINK News surveyed viewers asking if convicted felons should have their civil rights restored:

“If you want to reintegrate someone back into society they should have all the societal rights,” said voter Vince Ashley.

Others disagree, like a voter who did not wish to be identified.

“If you don’t want to, as they say, do the time, don’t commit the crime. They shouldn’t have rights,” said one voter.

Neither Scott nor the attorney general would talk with WINK News Wednesday about the cost to taxpayers.

WINK News anchor Britni McDonald went live via Facebook asking viewers their thoughts on the matter:

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