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Southwest Florida ex-cons take a stand in Tallahassee

Posted at 12:19 AM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 06:49:25-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Tragedy can change our lives. For Lance Wissinger, that tragedy was when his friend died in car accident.

An accident caused by Lance, who was driving drunk.

He was charged with DUI manslaughter. He served nearly 4 1/2 years in prison, and 5 years on probation.

Wissinger says his experience in prison changed his life, and he knew while he was there that he wanted to make a difference. One of those changes lies within the way other view convicted felons.

"Mistakes can be made. Punishments can be handed out. But once a debt is paid - it's paid," Wissinger said.

Amendment Four. The Voting Restoration Amendment passed in November allowing those with felony conviction to vote - murderers and sex offended excluded.

Now, Lance says the focus is on the hurdles.

That's why he says he and others from around the state are heading to Tallahassee early Tuesday morning for Advocacy Day 2019 - a day the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition says brings awareness to the challenges that "Returning Citizens" face. They say they want lawmakers to see that they're serious about playing an active role in their communities - that includes advocating for what they call "sensible criminal justice".

"It's called the Department of Corrections for a reason. It's supposed to correct the issue, and a lot of times I feel like there's no correcting going on," Wissinger told Fox 4.

Specifically, Lance mentioned job and skill training. "There's no reason that people should have to go back to a life that lead them to prison in the first place," he said.

That's why he's working on efforts that would help those who want to work, and he hopes law makes will take heed.

Republican State Committeeman Chris Crowley says he supports returning citizens like Lance. "We feel great if someone's paid their debt to society," Crowley said.

He says he know how they'll vote. "After they get out of prison and done their time...they're probably going to vote Republican," he said.

But for Lance Wissinger, who has registered as Republican, it's not about party affiliation. "I want people to come home, get jobs, and have a voice in their community."