Oct 12, 2021 - Politics
Crist goes from "Chain Gang Charlie" to progressive
Joyce Ward talks with Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) at her vendor booth during the Black Lives Matters Business Expo
Joyce Ward talks with Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) at her vendor booth during the Black Lives Matters Business Expo on June 19, 2020 in St. Petersburg. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

In his campaign to be Florida’s governor again, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist unveiled the first part of a progressive new platform that highlights the St. Pete Democrat’s departure from his conservative political roots.

  • His first priority will be restoring voting rights to felons who have been released from prison regardless of outstanding fines. He also wants to reform and accelerate consideration of clemency requests.
  • The second piece of his agenda aims to reduce gun violence by strengthening communities, requiring universal background checks for gun buyers and banning "large magazines and assault rifles."

Why it matters: Crist’s "Justice for All" platform is part of a forthcoming criminal justice reform plan that he says shows he stands "on the side of compassion and forgiveness."

Of note: Crist restored the right to vote to more than 150,000 felons from 2007 to 2011 in his four years as governor, the Tampa Bay Times reports. His successors, including opponent Gov. Ron DeSantis, did not.

Yes, but: Voters could remember that as a rising state Senator in the 1990s, Crist earned the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie" for vocal criticism of prison recreation programs and for leading an effort to require prison work crews to wear shackles in public.

  • "I see justice," Crist said in 1995 while watching a mostly-Black Alabama prison chain gang, per the Palm Beach Post. "I see justice being done."

What they’re saying now: "For too long we have focused on incarceration when we should be focusing on rehabilitation, forgiveness and restoring and rebuilding," Crist said.

What’s next: Crist will unveil the rest of his platform on a state tour this week.

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