Seven years after Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet voted to end the state policy that automatically restored the civil rights of nonviolent offenders after they complete their sentences, a price tag has emerged, the Miami Herald reports. Florida lost an estimated $385 million a year in economic impact, spent millions on court and prison costs, had 3,500 more offenders return to prison, and lost the opportunity to create about 3,800 new jobs. So concludes a report from the Republican-leaning Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables for proponents of Amendment 4 on the November ballot that asks voters to allow the automatic restoration of civil rights for eligible felons who have served their sentences.
The report was commissioned by the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a national criminal justice reform organization that works with crime survivors, to show the economic impact of approving the amendment. The findings estimate the cost of the policy that was fast-tracked into law by the governor a month after taking office in 2011, its impact on crime and its cost to taxpayers. Scott and the cabinet repealed the automatic restoration of rights that had been in place for four years and replaced it with a plan requiring a minimum five-year waiting period before offenders could start the application process to have their voting and civil rights restored. The proposed amendment would restore rights automatically, except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. To come up with a price tag for the policy, economists looked at the data from 2007 to 2011 and compared it with current data. They focused on the recidivism rate, the number of released felons who returned to prison after being released and projected the costs and the impact those felons would have on the economy if they went to work instead.