Newsletter Vol 2 No 2
March 2020
PLSE’s Record-Breaking Year  
The numbers are now in for Calendar Year 2019 and, thanks to our friends, supporters, and new community partners, we set new records in all areas:

Expungement Project:  1,176 people helped at 48 intake clinics held in 9 different Philadelphia neighborhoods. 1,227 total clients served, with new clients coming from 97 different zip codes.
Pardon Project:  8 community organizations trained and now serving as “Pardon Hubs” in their neighborhoods, over 150 people trained as Pardon Coaches, 22 potential non-profit partners contacted and in discussion, and 47 individual PLSE expungement clients referred to volunteers for help with their pardon applications; and, in just the one year, FOUR REVISIONS TO THE PARDON APPLICATION - including putting it on-line and making the process free - each revision making pardons more accessible to people ( Thank You, Board of Pardons!! )
General:  39 individual donors (including 100% of PLSE’s Board members) in amounts ranging from $10 to $50,000, and 3,773 subscribers to our monthly newsletter, with an average monthly “open rate” of 26%.

Pardon Steering Committeee Chair, Outreach Director, Both Selected for MacArthurt Foundation Post
The Rev. Michelle Simmons, Chair of PLSE’s Pardon Project Steering Committee, and Katherine Zuk, PLSE’s Director of Communications and Outreach, have both been appointed inaugural members of the City of Philadelphia’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC). Formed as a key part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge , and started by the City’s Office of Criminal Justice, the CAC is intended to help Philadelphia implement its reform plan for local jails . It is comprised of 23 individuals with lived experience or significant knowledge of the criminal justice system, with a wide variety of experience and perspectives, who are intended to inform local policy.
The CAC will hold 6 public meetings and 6 community events in 2020. You can follow Katherine’s journey on the CAC and see upcoming events here .  
Shuja Moore Appointed Mike Lee Fellow
When our Founding Executive Director resigned to become a senior member of District Attorney Krasner’s office, we decided to recognize his 7 years of exceptional service by creating the Mike Lee Fellowship in Criminal Justice . It is a 6-month, 8 hour/week, $3000 fellowship awarded to individuals with criminal records who aspire to a career in criminal justice or community organizing and have demonstrated a commitment to community and to social equity. Our newest fellow is Shuja Moore.
By day he is a Workforce Advisor at JEVS Human Services, but in the evenings and over the weekends, he does outreach for PLSE to communities afflicted by criminal records and the organizations that serve them, sharing with them information about expungements, pardons and how to come together in common effort. This is another step in the journey of self-discovery and transformation he began while serving a sentence for third-degree murder. His mission today is to help people with prison experience become better people, “eradicating the old and rebuilding the new” as he says in the five-episode film series he created, produced and hosts.

“PLSE is committed to assisting others fully participate in society without the weight of the criminal justice system holding them back,” said Moore, “and that is something that I want to be a part of. I am honored to be selected as the 2020 Mike Lee Fellow!” If you are interested in having Shuja come speak with your group, email us .
United Way’s Dr. Nikia Owens Recognized as “Social Innovator of the Year”
It was in 2018 that the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey first identified the removal of criminal records as an “impact strategy” in ending inter-generational poverty, and awarded its first contract to PLSE. The people behind that sea-change are United Way’s President and CEO Bill Golderer and Dr. Nikia Owens , United Way’s Managing Director of Financial Empowerment. Since then, the United Way has been not only one of PLSE’s strongest supporters (this year, funding one of our two staff attorneys), but a leader in pushing the urgency of criminal justice reform into many new areas of social service programming and philanthropic support.

Every year, the Social Innovations Journal honors “the region’s most passionate social innovators, entrepreneurs and changemakers whose work and social impact too often goes unnoticed.” This year, over 600 people were nominated, over 3,000 people voted, and Dr. Owens and one of her colleagues won the Award in the field of Public Policy and Systems Change, Race and Gender Equity , for the outside-the-box approaches they have taken to helping kids escape the otherwise never-ending oversight of the Juvenile Court by working off restitution awards through service. 
We are not just very proud, but very lucky to be working with such caring, innovative people. Congratulations, Dr. Owens! 
Pardon Workshops: Now in a Neighborhood Near You!
For a very long time, the only way you could learn about the pardon process was by reading the 14 pages of instruction that went with the 9-page application, and going to a clinic offered by Wayne Jacobs, co-founder of X-Offenders for Community Empowerment. Now, through new partnerships with him and the Barristers Association of Philadelphia , Pardon Workshops are being held regularly in five neighborhoods of the city:
  • North Philadelphia – 2227 N. Broad – African American United Fund – every month
  • Point Breeze – 1920 S. 20Th Street – Diversified Community Services – every other month
  • West Powelton - 814 N 41st Street – Calvary St. Augustine Episcopal Church – every month
  • Callowhill - 1235 Spring Garden St – Bebashi-Transition to Hope – every month
  • East Germantown - 717 E. Chelten Ave – Why Not Prosper – every month
In addition to these workshops, students from Penn Law School’s Pardon Project provide general information and 1:1 advice about the pardon application and process at the expungement clinics PLSE runs every month at the People’s Emergency Center (325 North 39th Street) and the Dornsife Center for Community Partnerships (3509 Spring Garden).

For a schedule of upcoming events, click here and scroll down to the calendar at the bottom of the page.
Duane Morris, Brandeis Law Society, Penn Law, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, The Fathers' Group, Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corporations's Case Managers...
What do these very different groups have in common? They have all been trained in the pardon process and forms within just the past 45 days! Thanks to revolutionary changes made in the process by the Board of Pardons over the past year, you don’t need to be a lawyer to help someone apply for a pardon. Trainings by PLSE staff have included members of congregations, business leaders, paralegals, case workers, administrative staff, retirees … anyone who understands how devastating a criminal conviction is to families and is willing to help someone with a record get through the application (which is confusing and daunting if faced alone).
Community organizations are setting up their own help sessions that are open to their neighborhoods, and law firms are accepting referrals from PLSE of clients who are going through the expungement process. Our goal is for the Board of Pardons to receive 2000 pardon applications each year just from Philadelphia’s low-income population! If you or your organization is interested in being trained, email us .
This Month's Pardon Tip: “Clean Slate” Does NOT Clean Slates! 
“Clean Slate” is the remarkable law, spearheaded by Community Legal Services, that is removing from the public database all arrests that did not end in convictions and certain convictions that are at least 10 years old. While it’s no longer possible for most employers and credit agencies to see those criminal history records on-line, those records still exist and can be easily accessed by the police, prosecutors, businesses using FBI background checks, and others. To get convictions REALLY erased from your record requires a pardon; and a pardon application requires you to disclose your complete criminal history, including the things hidden by Clean Slate.

Go to Room 310 of the Criminal Justice Center and ask for your “SECURE” court summary. Once you get it, take it one of PLSE’s expungement clinics or pardon workshops, where we can help you figure out what your options are. Check here for the next one.
Three ways you can help:

  1. Tell someone about our services! Give them this flyer and they can get started!
  2. Share our peer-to-peer pardon coaching videos! Watch here: PLSE’s Pardon Video Library.
  3. Contribute via PayPal, United Way (Donor Choice # 54185), or check!

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