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Newsletter Vol 6 No 4

April 2024

Getting Around Town

April has been an extremely busy month for PLSE, as we’ve been out in the community tabling at resource fairs and conducting intakes at record-clearing clinics. On Friday, April 19th we attended Temple’s Office of Community Affairs and Engagement’s first annual reentry job fair and resource village at the invitation of Sen. Sharif Street. While there, we connected dozens of job seekers with information and instructions on how to complete an intake, the first step towards clearing their records. We also saw our friend and supporter Rep. Darisha K. Parker. Thanks to all who organized this stellar event.

On Saturday, April 20th we held a clinic at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church sponsored by our partners at The Promise along with Uplift Solutions. Our longtime friends and colleagues at Uplift did a stellar job organizing the event and ensuring participants were able to meet with PLSE staff in a timely manner. 

On Tuesday, April 23rd in collaboration with The Promise we hosted a clinic along with the Institute for Community Justice at the Rotunda at 40th and Walnut Streets. In addition to record clearing, ICJ also organized a resource fair. Kudos to ICJ for their continued support of returning citizens. 

Finally, on Saturday, April 27th we held another clinic sponsored by The Promise at the headquarters of New Kensington Community Development Corporation. PLSE has an ongoing collaboration with NKCDC and one of our staff attorneys hosts regular office hours there each week. NKCDC does amazing work for their community and we know will be a vital part of their neighborhood’s resurgence. If you are interested in having PLSE come to your neighborhood or would like to volunteer as an intake specialist at future clinics, email PLSE Program Director Patrick Jackson Keough at

Call to Action!

Help Fund our Pardon Projects!

The PA House Appropriations Committee, Chaired by Second Chance Champion Rep. Jordan Harris, is considering adding Pardon Projects to the Commonwealth’s FY25 Budget. Each Pardon Project would get $10,000 to be matched later in the year by private donations – a total that will fund a part-time coordinator! Make your voice heard and All you need to do is click here and fill out the form! One min, tops! We’re told that letters matter – lots of letters matter! 

As of this writing, 186 people have signed on. Crawford County has the most (56), followed closely by Somerset (48); then Philly (16) and Luzerne (10); Lackawanna (8), Westmoreland and Cumberland (7), then Erie, Centre, Lancaster, Berks and Wayne (all with 5). Let’s do better than that. Sign the letter and share it with folks you know. Together we can tell PA lawmakers that second chances should be a priority. 

Not just Wawa v Sheetz, but the EEOC

It’s long been a standing tradition to ask candidates for statewide office whether they prefer Wawa or Sheetz. But on April 18, a new battle was drawn when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Sheetz for racially discriminatory hiring practices. Was Sheetz refusing to hire BIPOC applicants? Not directly, per the EEOC’s Press Release: “According to the lawsuit, Sheetz has maintained a longstanding practice of screening all job applicants for records of criminal conviction and then denying them employment based on those records.”  

Quoted in the release, EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson says this lawsuit “underscore[es] our nation's commitment to reintegrating individuals with criminal records into society by ensuring they have fair access to employment and other essential services.” Those of us who labor in the vineyard of equity cannot be faulted for thinking it’s more of a promise or a hope than a commitment. 

But let’s agree on this: If you are employed, how about recognizing this opportunity, and sharing with your employer’s HR leader the EEOC’s guidance on employer consideration of arrest or conviction records? For more information on race and color discrimination, visit

PLSE Pardon Project Wins Prestigious Award

“Equal Access to Justice: We believe the Justice System works best when it works for everyone.” As a mission statement, that’s a great one, and it belongs to the PA Bar Foundation (the charitable arm of the PA Bar Association). Its highest award is called The Goffman Award and it is presented to “an individual or an organization whose commitments to pro bono work have enhanced the delivery of legal services to Pennsylvania’s poor or disadvantaged, making a critical difference in the lives of those in need of legal representation.”  

PLSE won The Goffman in 2017 in recognition of the fact that it was filing more expungement petitions and clearing more criminal records than any other organization in the country. That’s still true, by far. We just received word that we’ve won it again this year, this time for our Pardon Project! 

“The nomination materials,” said the letter, “overwhelmingly outline the hard work and dedication your organization has provided communities across Pennsylvania through its Pardon Project.”

Like the Pardon Project itself, our nominators spanned the state: PBA Past President Sharon López (who strongly encouraged the statewide effort while served on PLSE’s Board), Pardon Recipient and Pittsburgh Community Services Inc. Career Specialist Anna Joyner, Wilkes University General Counsel Elizabeth Leo (who leads the Pardon Project of Luzerne County), Zion Community Services of PA CEO Mary Hoskins (who leads the Pardon Project of Lancaster County), and York County Bar Association/Foundation Executive Director Victoria Connor (who led the creation of the Pardon Project of York County). We thank you ALL!

The Award will be presented on May 9 during the PBA’s Annual Meeting in Hershey.

Journal Highlights West Philly’s Pardon Network 

Volume 24 (2024) of the Social Innovations Journal is dedicated to “Innovations in Cross-Sector Collaborations: An Approach to Increase Ecosystem and Place-Based Impact.” Not exactly clear what that means? Try this: 

“Strategic collaborations that convene government, philanthropy, private sector, and community result in better 'collective' problem solving to address the core challenges of a region. These spark further innovations and collaborations across sectors based upon collective problem-solving approaches, attract and leverage federal, state, and local investments, drive regional policy change, and build capacity, learning from and with each other, of all sectors through the exploration, project development, and implementation of solutions.”  

Translation: good things happen when everyone works together on a problem. And that’s why the West Philadelphia Pardon Network received the Journal’s international spotlight this month. The article was written by Corrie Mitchell, a third-year JD student at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law and the Executive Editor of Articles of Drexel Law Review, Volume XVI. 

The article explains how to take a big idea like PLSE’s statewide Pardon Project (which trained and nits together some two-dozen countywide pardon projects across the state) and make it work at a much smaller, neighborhood level – an innovation that can be copied and implemented almost anywhere.

The WPPN is still growing. To find out more or volunteer to help it, write them: To read Corrie’s article, click here.

Shuja Moore Continues the Great Work 

The email said it all: “On behalf of the Justice on Trial Film Festival committee, we want to congratulate you on winning this year's Best Feature Award for Pardon Me! We were so impressed with your film and its contribution to the Festival's mission of exposing the injustices of and exploring solutions to mass incarceration. The award ceremony will be taking place on Sunday, April 7th [in Los Angeles]. Congratulations again on your award-winning film!” –Justice on Trial Film Festival 

Shu also won Best Short Documentary at the Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival on April 15 and has been invited to show the film at the Dances With Wolves Film Festival in Hollywood (!!) in June. 

And if all that weren’t enough, he was invited to Harrisburg on April 16 to show the film to the Black Legislative Caucus, thanks to the support of State Rep. Rick Krajewski and House Speaker Joanna McClinton (see photo). Remember this is Shuja’s first film! 

Second Thought: "Second Chance"

We’ve long thought (and said) that we’re in the business of providing second chances, but a recent OpEd in the Philadelphia Inquirer has made us rethink using that term. Its author, Bob Rosa, now a leader at “New Leash On Life,” a dog shelter, wrote from experience: “As early as age 9, I had struggled with substance use; by the time I was 16 years old, I was labeled as a career criminal. When I was sentenced, the judge said that I would never be rehabilitated.”

He returned from prison in 2015. In his article, he compared the experience of being a returning citizen to that of the dogs he helps:

“But the term “second chance” implies that everyone had a legitimate first chance. And after more than a decade of experience working with people who have been incarcerated, I know that is not true to their story. Many people’s life “chances” are a function of the circumstances of their birth. It’s not fair to argue that a child born in poverty, who had to skip meals and regularly witness violence and trauma, had the same “chance” at life as someone who grew up in a loving, stable home, with access to plenty of food and great schools and opportunities.

Consider it from the perspective of the shelter dogs we serve — would you expect a dog that was abused and abandoned three times to be as open to new people as a dog who was raised in one home its whole life, and knew only love and kindness? Would you say that both dogs had an equal chance of finding a new home?”

So what term does he recommend we use instead?

“Fresh start” conveys a more positive and optimistic tone than “second chance;” it speaks to new beginnings, invites opportunity, and puts the ownership on the individual. The term empowers people to actively work towards a better future, rather than passively waiting for a “second chance.”

Great food for thought. Kudos to Mr. Rosa for his great work and excellent perspective.

Quote from someone who has applied for a pardon and signed letter calling on the Governor to sign pardons faster:

“You are a Saint. Thanks for all your attention to the pardon process. Sadly a lot of us don't have the resources for attorneys and the process is long and confusing at times. You are helping a lot of people with the information you put out. It's helped me out so much. The governor does not seem as excited about second chances in PA. For us, his 'get shit done' and 'speeding up government for Pennsylvanians' seems to be just talk.” 

–W.J. York, PA

Three things you can do:

  1. Write a letter to your lawmaker urging them to include Pardon Projects in the FY25 budget:
  2. Encourage the Governor to sign the pardons on his desk:
  3. Make a donation to PLSE:

Because Social Justice Requires Social Action

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity
230 S. Broad Street, Suite 1102, Philadelphia PA 19102
(267) 519-5323
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