Former felon turned civil rights activist Desmond Meade has been battling for his civil rights for a long time. Recently, Meade got these rights restored.
As President and Executive Director of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Meade was successful in helping to pass Amendment 4 back in 2018. The grassroots citizens’ initiative helped restore the voting rights of over 1.4 million Florida felons, putting an end to the “Jim Crow era” law in the state of Florida. Although Meade was able to make this happen, there were still debates about some terms of restoration.
The Republican Party declared that citizens pay all fines and fees before being able to vote. However, Gov. DeSantis and the Clemency Board adopted an automatic process, speeding up the restoration of rights for felons with completed sentences and allowing felons to apply for restoration without the five-year waiting period.
“[For] those who have had their voting rights restored under Amendment 4, it makes sense to also restore the other civil rights,” said DeSantis in a statement.
The rules allowed felons with legal financial obligations to apply to have their civil rights restored. They were also allowed to get their fines and fees waived by the Clemency Board. Felons with murder charges and felony sex crimes are not included in this policy.
Meade’s rights were restored because of the FRRC process. The activist receiving his rights back was very important to him.
“Amendment 4 gave the right to vote back; even though I could have voted because I didn’t have my civil rights restored, there were still so many other barriers that were erected. For instance, I couldn’t apply to the Florida Bar to start practicing law. It was very important to get them restored because it removed more barriers to help facilitate really successful reintegration in society,” said Meade.
Meade received the news that his rights were restored while broadcasting live via Twitter. His family surprised him with a letter from the Florida Clemency Board. He can now apply to the Florida Bar, run for office, and even buy a house.
Meade served time in prison for drug and firearm offenses. His story has inspired many young black people.
“I think it’s such a positive thing hearing about Meade’s rights. It just goes to show you that your past doesn’t define you. He is a suitable and successful mogul. He’s definitely a good person for young black men to look up to,” said Tallahassee native, Richard Garretson.
Meade continues to be an advocate for convicted felons.
In September, Meade was named a MacArthur Fellow, an award granted to United States citizens, “on the precipice of great discovery or a game-changing idea.” He was awarded a $625,000 grant, which he plans to use to pay off school loans and to help felons.