A new state report shows that roughly 11 percent of ex-felons who won back the right to vote in the last two years committed new crimes or were placed back under state supervision.
That differs greatly from a study released by the Department of Corrections in 2010 that showed that a third of all criminals released from a state prison usually wind up back there within three years.
The findings could reignite a controversy over a decision by Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Cabinet to make it harder for ex-convicts to regain their civil rights, which not only includes voting but the right to sit on a jury and to get a state license. The move in March made nearly 60,000 ex-felons ineligible.
Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi said at the time that former prison inmates should have to prove they can go crime-free for at least five years before getting their rights restored.
But Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the July 1 report from the Florida Parole Commission backs up other studies that have shown criminals are less likely to commit new crimes if they are integrated back into society.
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The report tracks what happened to ex-felons from 2009 and 2010 who had their rights restored under rules approved by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist came under fire for Republicans for pushing ahead with the policy in 2007. (Which was during the time period that George LeMieux was his chief-of-staff.)
The study marks the first time that Florida has even tried to go back and look at what happens after someone has their rights restored.
The decision by Scott and the Cabinet to make the rules harder of course comes a year before President Barack Obama will be on the ballot again in Florida. Simon and some Democrats have suggested the hardline toward ex-felons is based on a presumption that a large number of them are more likely to vote Democratic.