DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) Two Danville men are talking about their newly restored rights.
They are part of the $206,000 convicted felons who had rights restored by Governor McAuliffe's order.
"A little hopeless, thinking that I would have to succumb to a mediocre life," Southwest C.A.R.E.S. mentor and convicted felon Everett Linder explained.
Fellow mentor and also a convicted felon Russell Betterton agrees.
"You feel so disenfranchised it's almost the part of well, I'm rejected so I'm going to reject society," Betterton said.
Both Linder and Betterton have spent time in jail.
"Never give up in life. No matter where you are, no matter what you have been through, no matter what state you are in right now," Linder said.
The two men are helping others turn their lives around.
But until two months ago, they couldn't do things like like vote or sit on a jury.
"Now, whatever happens in this community, is my business. And whatever I can do now to change the outcome," Betterton said.
Linder and Betterton say this makes them feel truly free, and they can focus on making a difference in the lives of others.
"You have to help them. If we don't open up those doors. To become the intricate part of their lives that they need to be. Then this is when recidivism happens," Southwest C.A.R.E.S. Case Manager Barry Mayo said.
Mayo says the restoration of rights is a step forward in a complicated recidivism issue.
"Trickles down to helping his or her family. Which strengthens that and it also helps the community," Mayo said.
WDBJ7 caught up with Governor McAuliffe who defended his decision, despite the backlash.
"Why do we not want these folks to feel like citizens again. They are done. They are done with their sentence determined by a judge and jury. They are back in our communities they are paying taxes they are going to church. They are going to grocery stores. They've done. Let them vote," Governor Terry McAuliffe said.
Mayo has helped 18 convicted felons in the Danville area restore their rights since April.
A restoration celebration will be held next Wednesday at Calvary Baptist Church starting at 6 PM.