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Florida Governor Ordered to Dismantle Unfair Voting Rights Restoration System

Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet have been using an arbitrary system to decide when—and if—to restore Florida residents’ voting rights after they have been convicted and served time for a felony. This system has kept more than 10 percent of adult Floridians from being able to vote, and this largely includes those who were arrested on a felony charge of possession who are often individuals suffering from drug addictions. Once a person in this situation serves time, gets treatment, and gets clean, they can still be permanently barred from ever being able to vote again in the state.

On March 27, 2018, a judge ordered Gov. Scott to dismantle this system and replace it with something better by April 26. The judge’s decision comes on the heels of a grassroots campaign attempting to change this outdated law and to help those who have paid their debt to society or recovered from addiction after getting help.

Treatment Vs. Prison

More and more states, cities, and other areas in the U.S. are looking toward a focus on treatment rather than prison for those who are caught with illicit substances. In many cases, these individuals are addicts who will not receive the care they need if they are simply sent to prison.

  • Many people think that going through withdrawal cold turkey in a prison will scare a person into never using drugs again. The belief is that these individuals will remember the pain and suffering they went through by experiencing full-on withdrawal and that they will stay away from drugs in the future.

o   This is actually untrue and ignores the main factor associated with addiction: the fact that it is, first and foremost, a disease.

o   Even those who may not want to return to drug abuse after prison may still do so because they are not in control of their use.

o   Those who withdraw will no longer be dependent on the drug, but they will still be addicted. It works similarly to the process of putting someone through detox but not following up with rehab treatment.

  • Prison not only fails to help the prisoner who is addicted to drugs, but it also costs the country more money than professional addiction treatment.

o   According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a full year of methadone maintenance treatment would cost the country a little over $4,700 per patient. But a full year of imprisonment costs a whopping $24,000 per inmate.

In many ways, Florida as well as the entire country has a skewed view of addiction and what is necessary to help a person stop using. If we can work together to ensure that people receive treatment rather than prison time, more and more people will likely be able to achieve recovery and avoid recidivism, which would help our communities thrive overall.

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