Newsletter Vol 1 No 7
December 2019
PLSE’s First Peer-to-Peer Pardon Videos
According to our estimates, there are 100,000 low-income Philadelphians who have turned their lives around since finishing their sentences and who deserve to get a fresh start. The Board of Pardons has made it significantly easier to apply and is now approving over 85% of applications that they hear. How do we make the pardon process more accessible? Our answer: videos!

Earlier this year, the Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation awarded PLSE $10,000 to create a peer-to-peer video library to help people apply for pardons. Led by veteran Philadelphia TV news anchor and PLSE Board member Renee Chenault Fattah and produced by the students in Drexel University’s Dragon Productions, the first five videos are now finished and will be posted on our website within the next few weeks. Five more videos are expected by the spring. Take a sneak peak of the first video.
We’re planning a second day of shooting next spring. If you’ve applied for a pardon and are willing to share with others what you learned, contact us !
PLSE Expands into North Philadelphia
Looking Forward Philadelphia is an innovative program of JEVS Human Services that provides an array of social services and employment assistance designed to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of individuals returning from incarceration. It’s clearly a perfect partner for PLSE…and now it will be!
In January, PLSE will start providing counseling, expungement representation and pardon-related services to Looking Forward’s participants at JEVS’ program offices on Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia. “Job training falls short if a criminal record prevents candidates from getting the jobs they’ve trained for, and getting records expunged isn’t enough to get people into the jobs they’re qualified for,” explained Jeff Abramowitz, Executive Director of Reentry Services for JEVS. “We’re delighted to be joining forces with PLSE in what I am confident will be just the first program in which we work together.”
Philadelphia Bar Will Keep Pardon Reform Its Priority for 2020
Every year, the incoming Chancellor (leader) of the Bar Association addresses its membership and gives an overview of what she or he plans to accomplish. With so many issues facing Philadelphia and the legal profession, it’s often the case that priorities one year won’t be priorities the next. For that reason, we were absolutely thrilled to hear Judge Michael A. Snyder say that pardon reform would remain high on the Bar Association’s list of priorities for 2020. This follows a year when the Association, under the leadership of Chancellor Shelli Fedullo, unanimously adopted three different Resolutions that called on the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Attorney General to fundamentally restructure and reform the pardon process so that it would be accessible to Pennsylvanians who cannot afford lawyers to help them with the process – plus the Board of Pardons actually did what the Association asked them to do in many instances!

The work in reforming the pardon and clemency process is not done,” said the incoming Chancellor. “ We will continue to make these efforts a priority during the coming year.” We thank him sincerely for this commitment! To read the press release announcing this commitment, click here.
GuideStar Again Awards PLSE Its Gold Seal
GuideStar is the largest source of nonprofit information and has collected information about more than 13,000 nonprofits worldwide. Its assessments help assure donors about the quality of the organizations they cover. GuideStar only awards its “Gold Seal” to the Top 0.5% of all the nonprofit organizations it reviews. PLSE first received this recognition in early 2018, and we have received it again! You can check out its assessment of PLSE here.
Redeemer Renaissance CDC Hosts Pardon Project Planning Session
Philadelphia’s City Solicitor Marcel Pratt has called removing criminal records “a critical neighborhood investment strategy.” Community development corporations (CDCs) are key partners in that effort.

Earlier this month, PLSE connected with the Redeemer Renaissance Community Development Corporation (RRCDC). Its long-time Executive Director Gertrude Teat (pictured second from left) had heard about what we are doing in Point Breeze and reached out to us. Within a week, she had signed RRCDC on as a Pardon Hub and invited organizations in its network to an exploratory meeting at the Redeemer Christian and Education Life Center, 2421-23 Dickinson Street.

“Our mission is to rejuvenate, revitalize, educate and empower communities and neighborhoods,” said Director Teat. “Collaborating with PLSE to help neighbors apply for pardons is clearly an important way to help make neighborhoods stronger. PLSE has shown us just how easy it is to help. We are excited about this new opportunity and eager to get started.”

Is your CDC is interested in becoming a Pardon Hub? If so, contact us.
Our Pardon Project Steering Committee
An article in our November Newsletter talked about some of the great work our Pardon Project Steering Committee is doing – including working on the Pardon Video Library and developing new community partners like Redeemer Renaissance CDC – and we thanked its 12 members for their leadership. But somehow, one of the two photos we meant to include didn’t make it in. Sorry about that! So here they both are.

Thank you all for your dedication!
Pictured (L to R):  Wayne Jacobs, Josie Reed (Chair of the Committee), Akeem Sims, Evan Figueroa-Vargas
Pictured are (L to R, back row): Jarue Lawson (inaugural Mike Lee Fellow), Akeem Sims, Tobey Oxholm (Director, Pardon Project), Ghani Songster
(L to R, front row): Evan Figueroa-Vargas, Rev. Michelle Simmons, and Paula Budnick.
Today's Pardon Tip: No Photo Required!
One of the long-standing requirements for a pardon application that PLSE has challenged is that applicants must attach a color head shot. Does someone’s face tell you whether or not they are truly rehabilitated? When we brought this issue to the attention of the Board of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood, he responded by eliminating the requirement! The application form was revised on November 15th. If you are working on the old form, you do not have to start over – j ust don’t worry about the photo. Thank you, Secretary Flood!
Three ways you can help:

  1. Tell us what you think about the first pardon video!
  2. Connect us with a local community organization or CDC that could become a pardon hub.
  3. Contribute to our year-end fundraising drive.

Want to do more or learn more about the work we do? Write us at or call at 267-519-5323.

Katherine Zuk
Director of Communications & Outreach
Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity

1501 Cherry Street Philadelphia, PA 19102
(267) 519-5323