Pubdate: Sun, 16 Oct 2005
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The Miami Herald
Author: Stephen Heath


Re the Oct. 9 letter Ex-felons face hurdles after prison: Anthony
Lorenzo's astute observations about the many irrational hurdles faced
by released ex-felons in Florida should be sobering news to all. Even
more important is the horrific imbalance of felons created by
Florida's ill-founded and misguided drug laws.

Many state residents may have the impression that a felon always is
someone with a record of violence or repeated lower-level offenses
that makes him worthy of the harsher penal category. They likely don't
realize that Florida virtually has the harshest and most Draconian
penalties in the nation for simple marijuana possession, an offense
that some 1.5 million Floridians technically violate daily.

While a handful of Florida counties offer drug-court diversion
options, a prosecutor may reject this alternative and simply proceed
with a felony case.

Since slashing state prison drug-treatment funding in 2002, neither
Gov. Jeb Bush nor the state Legislature has done anything to restore
canceled programs or to create new ones. Meanwhile, they have approved
more than 10,000 new prison beds.

It not only is time to streamline the rights-restoration process for
felons who have served their sentences, it's equally urgent that we
redefine what constitutes a felony under Florida state law.


Public-relations director

Drug Policy Forum of
Florida, Clearwater 
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MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFlorida)