June 5, 2012

Workshop Helps Ex-Convicts Restore Civil Rights

Restoration is easier with help, says man who completed process

It took time for Robert Flores to regain the rights he lost when he was convicted of a felony.

After serving his sentence, Flores wanted to get his rights restored and his conviction set aside, and tried to do it on his own, but ran into hurdles until he went to a workshop with the Primavera Foundation.

The foundation and the University of Arizona Civil Rights Restoration Clinic hold workshops to help convicted felons restore their rights after they've served their sentences.

Flores wanted back the right to bear arms, and he wanted to be able to tell potential employers his past conviction was completely taken care of.

"Our past doesn’t determine our future and we all have a second chance at life," Flores said.

After going through the restoration process, which Flores says involved talking to an advisor, collecting conviction paperwork and appearing for a hearing at Pima County Superior Court, he says he's been able to lease an apartment, which he couldn't do before he had his rights restored.

"It’s time to move on and do better for ourselves," Flores says.

The workshops have helped about 200 people with at least one felony conviction restore their rights in the past three years, says Jill Conway, a workshop organizer with Primavera.

"You get to pair up and talk to a volunteer lawyer and answer questions about your specific convictions, what paperwork you need to fill out," Conway says.

One in about two dozen people have felony convictions that remove their civil rights, including the right to vote, run for office and serve on a jury, Conway says.

“These are individuals that are living, working, raising families in our communities, and they deserve a right to still be a part of that process and to have a say in their own decisions,” Conway says.

The next workshop will be held Wednesday, June 13 at the Joel D. Valdez Downtown Library branch, 101 N. Stone Ave., from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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