State Issues Public Service Announcement to Help Former Felons Get Rights Back

Voting rights organizations say the state's latest attempt to help former felons get their rights back is pathetic. Department of Corrections officials have produced a public service announcement with a hotline number that they're asking newspapers and TV and radio stations to run for free.

Advocates say it's an effort on the cheap that may not even get to the people it's supposed to help.

The Department of Corrections produced the PSA in the hopes of reaching thousands of former felons it hasn't been able to contact.

Spokesman Sterling Ivey says it includes a phone number to help those who qualify get their civil rights back.

“The information has already been provided to the Executive Office of Clemency. Now it's just a matter of contacting those individuals and saying, we've sent your information in. You may need to have your civil rights restored with a hearing, so here's a toll-free number you can contact and start that process.”

The campaign is the result of a court order. A judge ruled the prison system failed for nine years to help nearly 125,000 former felons weed through the paperwork to get their rights restored, but is this whole public service announcement campaign too little too late?

Voting rights advocate Sharon Pacheco-Lettman say it's pretty lame. She says she finds it ridiculous the state would expect media companies to run an ad for free during the political season when they get thousands of dollars for ads.

”You know I hate to be so cynical as to say too little, too late because it's an attempt, but it's not an effort that is concrete enough to make a difference.

Another obstacle for former inmates is the hotline is only staffed Monday-Friday from 8-5, but the state says the public service campaign complies with the judge's order.

The toll-free hotline number to assist former felons in getting their rights restored will be open for 30 days starting Monday.

The number is (866) 470-1903.