Maxwell Frost, Frederica Wilson seek full pardon for Desmond Meade

wilson frost
Florida restored the voting advocate's civil rights. Will Joe Biden go a step farther?

Members of Florida’s congressional delegation are lobbying President Joe Biden to pardon voting rights advocate Desmond Meade.

U.S. Reps. Maxwell Alejandro Frost and Frederica Wilson sent a letter to the White House urging Biden to grant a full pardon to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition leader.

“Mr. Meade’s life is a testament to the power of a second chance,” the letter reads.

Meade has led a number of high-profile efforts to protect and expand voting rights in Florida. That most notably included a successful campaign in 2018 for a constitutional amendment requiring the automatic restoration of most felons’ voting rights once they serve out sentences and obligations to the state.

“One of the greatest honors of my life was organizing to help pass Amendment 4, a movement that Desmond Meade started,” said Frost, an Orlando Democrat.

“Desmond’s life’s work is a powerful reminder of the importance of forgiveness and second chances. A civil rights leader, Desmond has created a movement powered by love and compassion.”

Wilson also cited that work as she lobbies the White House.

“As he has advocated for millions of returning citizens, I am proud to advocate for the pardon of Desmond Meade,” said Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat. “Together with Congressman Frost, we urge President Biden to grant Mr. Meade a Presidential pardon, a recognition long overdue for the enduring impact he has made.”

As a young man serving in the Army in the mid-1980s, Meade served three years in prison for grand larceny. He was also dishonorably discharged from the service. The letter outlines the impact drug use had on Meade’s behavior at the time, and notes Meade continued to struggle with addiction and homelessness after his sentence concluded.

But Meade also regained control of life, ultimately earning a law degree from Florida International University. While the prior convictions created a barrier to a law career, Meade ultimately dedicated his life to restoring the rights of previously incarcerated people.

His work has landed Meade on TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in 2019. He was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on multiple occasions has denied Meade a pardon in Florida. But the Governor and Florida Cabinet, acting as the Florida Clemency Board, approved an automatic clemency approval process in 2021 and Meade’s civil rights were restored.

Frost and Wilson said Meade has earned a full pardon.

“That leaders like Ron DeSantis have chosen to continue to support his disenfranchisement proves that our justice system isn’t centered on rehabilitation but on incarceration,” Frost said.

“No one has done more for voting rights in Florida than Desmond, which is why, alongside Congresswoman Wilson, I wholeheartedly call on President Biden to do what Gov. DeSantis will never be willing and able to do — grant Desmond Meade a Presidential pardon to restore his rights fully.”

Wilson said there were few stories of rehabilitation as compelling as Meade’s journey.

“Desmond Meade’s life is a testament to the incredible power of second chances. As a veteran, renowned civil rights leader, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Mr. Meade has devoted his life to restoring the rights of millions who were once incarcerated,” Wilson said.

“His journey and commitment to service are embodied through his advocacy to others and serves as an inspiration and role model, particularly for young men of color who find hope in his story and see Mr. Meade as an example that it is possible to turn their lives around.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Michael K

    June 21, 2023 at 5:31 pm

    Of course Meade deserves a full pardon – but the new confederacy of Ron DeSantis does not want Back people to vote, or have a voice in local, state or federal government. He will not lift a finger to honor the will of the people to restore voting rights to former felons who served their time. He will, however, spend millions on a farcical “election police” to intimidate a handful of mostly Black citizens.

    It’s a perverse reminder that freedom in Florida is only for those who meet the governor’s narrow ideal of what a “real person” should be.

  • It's Complicated

    June 22, 2023 at 9:24 am

    Meade is a good example of someone who should be considered to receive a Gubernatorial and Presidential Pardon. Would be interested in seeing the criteria or rubric used to make those decisions at both levels. Based upon what I know about Presidential Pardons, irrespective of the party in power, it appears they are based largely upon who you know, or who is lobbying for the Pardon.

Comments are closed.


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