Fried Calls on DeSantis to Schedule Additional Clemency Board Meetings in 2022

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Sep 14, 2022

Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet and the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, called on Governor DeSantis to immediately reschedule the postponed Clemency Board meeting originally set for August 24th, and schedule an additional meeting given the cancellation of June’s meeting. There has only been one meeting of the Clemency Board in 2022 to date.

“As you know, there are Florida citizens who have paid their debt to society and waited years for the chance to have their rights restored. They should not have to wait a single additional day, never mind having to wait until the December 14th scheduled meeting, which also is at risk of being cancelled given your tendency to do so with such state business over the past four years,” wrote Commissioner Fried.

“I implore you to put the people of Florida and the business of our state first by scheduling – and actually holding – additional Clemency Board meetings immediately so we, as constitutional officers and members of the Executive Board of Clemency, can do our jobs and at a minimum, give clemency applicants the opportunity for a long-awaited second chance,” she concluded.

The letter reads as follows:

September 14, 2022

Governor DeSantis,

As an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, and member of the Board of Executive Clemency, I am writing to urge you to immediately reschedule the postponed Clemency Board meeting originally set for August 24th as well as schedule an additional meeting given the cancellation of June’s meeting. As you know, there are Florida citizens who have paid their debt to society and waited years for the chance to have their rights restored. They should not have to wait a single additional day, never mind having to wait until the December 14th scheduled meeting, which also is at risk of being cancelled given your tendency to do so with such state business over the past four years.

As you know, those individuals scheduled to be heard at the cancelled June meeting— and then subsequently the postponed August meeting— would now be scheduled to be heard at the next Clemency Board meeting. Can you imagine the emotional toll this takes on individuals to have their lives upended and hopes dashed at the whims of a Governor, having to wait again and again for an opportunity that keeps moving further away? That doesn’t even take into account the financial strain of preparing for the meetings and the time off required to travel to Tallahassee, which is multiplied by having to accommodate the everchanging schedule. Meanwhile, the number of applicants awaiting to be scheduled at a future meeting gets longer and longer as no action is taken to move forward the progress for those pending before them. It is the bare minimum of our responsibility as members of the State Board of Executive Clemency to hold regular meetings allowing applicants to be heard as they seek a second chance.

Furthermore, I continue to be deeply concerned regarding the lack of clemency opportunities during your time in office. Our Clemency Board only met four times in 2019 and only twice during 2020. Even after you lifted COVID-related restrictions and state officials resumed other activities – both in person and online – you seemed uninterested in doing the state’s business of holding regular Cabinet and Clemency Board meetings. Since that time, there have been only five Cabinet meetings, three in 2021 and two in 2022, while the Clemency Board meeting scheduled for the day after the August Cabinet was postponed. That means that more than nine months into 2022, there has only been one Clemency Board meeting held, only one opportunity for individuals seeking a second change to be heard.

As a fellow attorney, and a graduate of Yale Law School, you acutely understand that justice delayed is justice denied. Those individuals who are still awaiting clemency from the June meeting should not have to wait until December and those next in line for consideration should not have to wait until 2023 for this opportunity for a second chance. By not holding regular meetings, by routinely cancelling meetings, and by not rescheduling the postponed meeting from August, you are choosing to prolong the disenfranchisement of predominantly Black and Brown Floridians to the detriment of their individual futures and the collective future of our state.

I implore you to put the people of Florida and the business of our state first by scheduling – and actually holding – additional Clemency Board meetings immediately so we, as constitutional officers and members of the Executive Board of Clemency, can do our jobs and at a minimum, give clemency applicants the opportunity for a long-awaited second chance.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Nicole “Nikki” Fried
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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