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Restore rights to nonviolent felons

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This letter was addressed to Del. Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania) and was copied to The Gazette. The author described himself under his signature as “convicted felon and former Carroll County administrator.”

I read with sadness your opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 284, to allow an opportunity to amend the Virginia Constitution to allow automatic restoration of civil rights to nonviolent felons once they complete their sentences.
Being a nonviolent felon, I know firsthand the disgrace and prejudice associated with a felony conviction.
I do not expect sympathy for the actions that I took which brought me to this position. The disgrace and shame I brought to my family and to the public for which I was appointed to serve is a stain and heartache that never leaves me.
Since returning home from prison, the difficulty in finding employment has been indescribable.
I have either lost every job I have earned because of my conviction or I am not employed to begin with. Having my rights restored may not change this circumstance, but it may go some way in demonstrating to society that I have been punished for my crimes and wish to be a contributing member of my community again and can be trusted.
My direct forefathers served in every conflict this nation has been part of since before the founding of the country. I also served in the U.S. Air Force.
No doubt they would be ashamed of my felony and the disgrace I brought to the name they so honorably defended.
I believe they would be ashamed of your action as well. To use your position to obstruct this opportunity — which 48 other states provide — is wrong.
I do not realistically expect to have my rights restored in the near future. Our governor and his immediate predecessors have shown enlightenment in streamlining the process for many felons to reacquire their rights.
Hopefully this process will continue until the General Assembly reaches their level of enlightenment.
I will continue to contribute in whatever ways that I am able to my community, to search for an employer who will give me that second chance to be a productive citizen, and thank my family for providing me love and respect in spite of the great pain I have caused them to endure.
Billy Mitchell
Hillsville