There are approximately 378,000 Virginians who have lost their Civil Rights due to a felony conviction. This means they canâ€™t vote, hold public office, serve on a jury or be a notary. It also means that in many cases they are excluded from that â€œgood jobâ€. Additionally, the Virginia Department of Corrections supervises over 49,000 felon offenders annually. With a pipeline of approximately 49,000 feeding into an estimated population of 378,000, simple math says the number of disenfranchised citizens is not going to go down. They need help. What can be done?
Oneâ€™s civil rights may be restored. These rights may be restored through application to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A convicted felon is eligible to apply for Rights Restoration (1) 2 years after completion of supervised probation for non-violent offenses and (2) 5 years after completion of supervised probation for violent offenses. Once eligible and having applied to the Governorâ€™s Secretary of the Commonwealth, their application will be processed and returned with a reply within 60 days. This is one way to make the numbers go down and there is a process in place to help work the problem.
An application for Restoration of Civil Rights may be obtained by writing to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, PO Box 2454, Richmond, VA 23218 or calling (804)786-2441 and asking for an application package. Or on line to: http://www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/judicialsystem/clemency/restoration.cfm and download the application package.
There are also local groups who will assist you. For example, on 17 & 24 January, 2012, the City of Suffolk, the Suffolk Democratic Committee and others will be conducting a restoration of voter rights workshop, 6:30 â€“ 9:00 P.M. at the Workforce Development Center, 157 North Main Street, Suite D, Suffolk VA, 23434. It is free and open to the public. This two-session workshop will include a presentation as well as one-on-one assistance to help applicants fill out the required paperwork. And, if you want to talk about it, call Jack @ 757-879-6707.