An article in the June 3 issue of the Tampa Bay Times regarding “Felon Voting Rights Checked,” noted “that an estimated 1.7 million people are unable to vote due to a felony conviction.” Ten felons appeared in a Tampa courtroom recently wanting their voting rights restored. The intent of the hearing was “to have those who owed more than they could pay in court fees, appear before a single judge who could then grant a mass waiver of the outstanding debt.” Of the 10, two were denied their request as they were financially able to pay.
Language on the November 2018 ballot regarding Amendment 4 made no mention of fines, court costs, or restitution, which is part of their sentencing. Sixty-five percent voted in favor of the amendment; however, many may not have been aware of the full sentencing spectrum.
Victim restitution is an integral part of sentencing, wherein victims present an Impact Statement to the court recounting how they were affected by the crime; expenses incurred, etc., prior to sentencing. I certainly do not pity those who were incarcerated for their crimes and now beg the courts to relieve them of their financial responsibility to pay, and find it difficult to accept their financial plight while leaving the victims to recoup their losses.
Having worked in the 6th Judicial Circuit, both as a victim advocate and secretary to the lead trial attorney to aid in the prosecution of these felonious crimes and working with victims, I feel the revision to Amendment 4 and this “mass waiver” are an affront to our judicial process.
Barb Kanehl, Palm Harbor