Civil rights restoration workshop Tuesday

Published 10:05 pm Monday, June 10, 2013

A workshop set for today in Smithfield will feature as guest speaker a Richmond man who is suing to get his civil rights restored after a felony conviction.

“He’s done everything the courts have asked him to do,” Gammiel Poindexter said of Sa’ad El-Amin, a former Richmond City Councilman who was convicted of a federal tax charge. “I’m sure if anyone can do some good, it would be Sa’ad.”

El-Amin’s speech will take place at the workshop on restoration of civil rights, which will help both violent and non-violent felons fill out paperwork to have their civil rights restored. Virginia does not currently restore civil rights automatically upon completion of sentencing requirements — the process requires notarized paperwork, waiting periods, approval by the governor and more.

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“It’s very tedious, and it goes on and on,” Poindexter said of the restoration process. “A lot of these charges are against people who have not had any problems in 20 or 30 years. Working your way through the process is not easy.”

However, Gov. Bob McDonnell recently announced he will automatically restore, on an individual basis, civil rights to non-violent felons who have completed their sentence, probation and parole; have paid all court costs, fines and restitution; completed all court-ordered conditions; and have no pending felony charges.

The changes eliminate the two-year waiting period, the application process and the governor’s subjectivity regarding applications.

“This is a very exciting time,” Poindexter said of the changes. “I think most of these people would be deserving. They’ve paid their dues and done everything the court has asked of them.”

However, the changes do not take place until July 15 and do not apply to violent offenders, who still must apply to have their rights restored.

At Tuesday’s workshop, trained volunteers with necessary forms are available to assist in filling out paperwork. If possible, attendees should bring a certified copy of their conviction and sentencing orders, as well as evidence that fines and court costs have been paid.

The event is being sponsored by the Isle of Wight Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Phi Chi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

It will be held at Main Street Baptist Church, 517 Main St., Smithfield, at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call 294-3118.