ST.PETERSBURG, Fla.- Alan Perry's first arrest came at 13-years-old.
“Coming from an under-privileged neighborhood, it's just a norm to do wrong,” he said.
Subsequent charges ranged from grand theft auto and robbery to selling drugs and being involved in shootouts.
But his thrill came from stealing cars.
“At that time stealing cars was such a thing to do. It's so easy to steal a car,” he said.
Perry compared it to a game.
“You may start off like I did as a rider and then you want to move up to the driver, so you got to go and steal it,” he said.
After serving 12 years in prison, Perry, 40, is volunteering with Floridians for a Fair Democracy to get an important right back: The right to vote.
His message to teens on Friday was that even after serving time, you're still paying for the crime.
The group aims to collect nearly 700,000 signatures to ensure the voting restoration amendment appears on the 2018 ballot.
The amendment would restrict those convicted of murder or sexual offenses from voting.
Florida, along with Iowa and Kentucky, are the only three states with lifetime voting bans for felons.
“You won't understand until it hits you when you're trying to be productive and you're understanding that you can't even participate in the election because something from years ago, that's still riding with you,” Perry said.
Car thefts involving teens has been described as 'a deadly epidemic' in Pinellas County, where eight teens have died in incidents involving stolen cars within the past two years.
During one 18-month period, kids crashed stolen cars at least once every four days, according to our news partners at the Tampa Bay Times.
Community members met earlier this week to discuss how to address the issue, including social programs for at-risk children instead of longer prison sentences.
For now, Perry wishes the message he's currently sharing was one he heard as a kid.
“If I did this over 20 years ago and it's still going on today, then these kids are not getting the opportunities and not getting the chances,” Perry said. “I just hate to see it. It really bothers me. I think I can reach more kids if I have more leverage and really go into the schools and talk to them and educate them,” he says.
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