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Sundial

Special session on redistricting and Disney World, reentering society after prison, the life of Bill Baggs

The cover of 'The Life of Bill Baggs'

Lawmakers are in Tallahassee for a special session on redistricting maps. We meet a judge who helps former inmates return to society successfully — and find their purpose. Plus, this month’s Sundial Book Club pick is a biography about one of South Florida’s most influential newspapermen, Bill Baggs.

On this Tuesday, April 19 edition of Sundial:

Special session on redistricting and Disney World

New congressional maps will have an impact on who represents you in government.

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Florida legislators are in Tallahassee Tuesday to re-discuss those maps. Governor Ron DeSantis announced this special session last month after he vetoed the maps that lawmakers initially voted on.

In an unprecedented move, the governor proposed his own maps. Republican leaders have said they’re prepared to approve the governor’s maps instead of re-drawing their own.

The governor also recently announced plans to expand this special session to consider a bill that would repeal the special district that gives Disney World a lot of its autonomy.

“This is one of those threats that's really designed for the headlines," said Mary Ellen Klas, the Capitol Bureau Chief in Tallahassee for the Miami Herald, who joined Sundial to discuss this most recent special session. "They don't even have a committee meeting scheduled to take up this legislation. I'm not even sure I see draft legislation filed yet."

DeSantis’ relationship with Disney has been strained over Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act, which has been dubbed by critics the "Don't Say Gay" law. The entertainment company’s CEO said he would support the repeal of the law, which DeSantis signed.

A second special session is expected for next month to discuss property insurance rates.

Special session on redistricting and Disney World
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Reentering society after prison

What happens after a prisoner pays their debt to society?

Re-entering the community can be daunting and difficult. Imagine being away for years — even decades.

“I was just thinking that when I get out, it was going to be a little little bit easier than what I thought it was going to be. But when I got out, it was tough for me. It was just it was tough for me transforming back into society,” said Darryl Richardson, a former prisoner and a participant of CARE Court — a local reentry program that helps previously incarcerated individuals reintegrate back into society.

“I think that when you harm society, you have to accept responsibility and be held accountable. But justice needs to be tempered with mercy. I just felt that there was a mentality of lock them away,” said United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Judge Patricia A. Seitz. She is an original member of CARE Court.

“I remember one individual came into my courtroom and he said, ‘I just can't make it out there. Send me back. I give up.’”

Richardson was originally sentenced to 30 years by Judge Seitz. He is now in culinary school and has earned his GED.

Reentering society after prison
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The life of Bill Baggs

You may have seen the sign when you entered Biscayne Bay. It reads, "Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park."

Who was Bill Baggs?

That’s what author Amy Paige Condon asked herself the first time she heard about the park’s name. And in the years that followed, Amy kept coming back to that name in different life situations.

Bill Baggs was the editor of the Miami News in the 1960s. That paper no longer exists. But his award-winning work impacted events like the civil rights movement and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Condon met Bill’s widow at a writing workshop and decided this was a story she needed to tell.

Her book is called “A Nervous Man Shouldn't Be Here in the First Place: The Life of Bill Baggs” and it’s this month’s title for the Sundial Book Club. Join the club here.

The life of Bill Baggs
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Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, currently leads the WLRN Newsroom as Interim Managing Editor. Prior to transitioning to leadership from production, Caitie reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.