When Montell learned he had rheumatoid arthritis at 26, his diagnosis came with prescribed pain killers. In no time he was addicted to his medication, as one of millions swept up in the wave of a national opioid crisis. By 33, Montell had a felony drug conviction related to his time as an addict.
“Nobody will take you seriously about any kind of job. It’s so limiting. You literally feel like less of a person. I had paid my debt to society. I did all of that, but the shame stays with you.”
When Montell and his wife had a baby born with health issues that required specialized care, he learned the skills necessary to care for her at home. His time spent with his daughter inspired him to consider a career in nursing.
He took a chance and enrolled in classes at Central Piedmont Community College knowing he would have to prove to a judge that he was committed to living a better life.
“Everything had to be flawless to prove I was serious and worthy of being given a second chance.”
Through a campus presentation, he learned about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s work helping people clean up criminal records. Having had no other offenses in the 10 years since his conviction, he was eligible, and an attorney helped him apply to have his felony expunged.
He nervously waited a year until August when he finally got the call from his attorney. His record was clean. He was no longer a felon. His rights as a citizen had been restored.
“I was physically shaking,” he remembers. “This was huge. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy was a godsend for me. You guys did something really special.”
Today, Montell is completing his courses with a 4.0 GPA. With a clean record, he now has the freedom to pursue a career that offers better pay and more opportunities for his family. He can vote, enjoy his passion as a hunter and volunteer at his daughter’s school.
“I feel lighter. There’s hope I can really grab onto and know it’s not going to be snatched away. My future is in my hands now.”
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