In light of the 2016 presidential elections, more people are expected to attend the Restoration of Civil Rights Workshop on Thursday.
From 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., people with felony convictions are invited to the Tower Road Branch Library, situated at 3020 SW 75th St., to possibly restore their rights to vote, hold public office and sit on a jury.
Meshon Rawls, a UF legal professor and the event’s coordinator, said she started working to restore rights in 2005.
She said more people are expected to attend the event with the goal of voting in the upcoming elections.
However, those people may have a false sense of hope, she said.
“What they often don’t understand is that you have to wait to file for five years after a minor offense sentence and seven years after a major offense sentence,” Rawls said.
After getting involved with the library two years ago, Rawls started training 30 UF students each Fall to help with the events, which are held six times a year.
Aside from voting, Rawls said most attendees hope to overcome obstacles in the way of finding better jobs or homes.
“These things that they’ve done are in the past, and they want to move forward, but the system is holding them back,” she said.
Phillis Filer, the public services administrator for the Alachua County Library District branches, said experts at the event help people understand their personal situations.
“Even if you just have an understanding that your rights may be restored, that’s a breath of relief,” she said. “They know that even if it’s a long tunnel, there is a light. If they don’t know that, it’s like being lost in a fog.”
Rawls said it’s hard work putting on the event, but she doesn’t mind.
“I feel a sense of responsibility,” Rawls said. “If all it takes for me is learning this process and being able to educate people, then it’s the least I can do to help.”