Newsletter Vol 1 No 6
November 2019
Support PLSE for Giving Tuesday!
Giving Tuesday is an international day of charitable giving. This Tuesday, December 3, be sure to think globally, act locally, and support PLSE! Our recent independent financial review confirmed that over 86% of our funding is spent on client and program service, and we have long had a Gold Seal rating from GuideStar. Read about some of the exciting things we are doing, forward this newsletter to a friend, and then support us directly or through United Way (Donor Choice #54185) with your tax-deductible contribution. We count on your support to continue the work that we do.
Sharon López, Past President of PA Bar Association,
Joins PLSE Board
Pictured above from May 2017 are Sharon, PLSE Founding Executive Director Mike Lee, and Kathleen D. Wilkinson, who will become President of the PBA in 2021.
In May 2017, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation presented its most prestigious prize – the Louis J. Goffman Award – to PLSE. In Pittsburgh helping to present the Award was Sharon R. López, the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s new President – its first ever Latina, and the first-ever President to have served as a full-time legal services attorney. You can only imagine the list of things she had done to rise to that pinnacle of leadership, or how many organizations would simply love to have her with them now. Which is why PLSE is so greatly honored, and simply delighted, when she agreed to join the PLSE Board. Sharon will give us a whole new level of visibility and access to opinion leaders and concerned citizens in every part of the state. Thank you, Sharon!

For the full press release announcing Sharon's election to the Board, click here .
First-Ever Pardon Hub Neighborhood Created in Point Breeze
Pardon Hubs are community organizations whose staffs have been trained in criminal records and the pardon process and who are ready, willing and able to help people in their neighborhoods write the best pardon applications that they can. PLSE’s goal is not just to have a Pardon Hub in every Philly neighborhood, but to have several up and running – so that the residents have several places to go, and so that the Hubs can support each other.

We are thrilled to report that our first Pardon Neighborhood has now been formed!  Diversified Community Services (DCS) has now held a few Criminal Record Expungement Clinics in their gym staffed by PLSE, student volunteers from the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Criminal Records Expungement Project and paralegal students from the Community College of Philadelphia.  This past month, DCS hosted their first Pardon Workshop. Both events were promoted by a second Hub in the neighborhood – St. Simon the Cyrenian Episcopal Church – where a dozen members of the congregation have now been trained in how to help people apply for pardons. Law students from Penn Law School’s Pardon Project have volunteered to help, and will soon start offering 1:1 pardon counseling sessions at the Church. And all of this is being supported by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Click here to learn more about Pardon Hubs.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all of our partners in this first-of-its-kind network!
Ballard Spahr's Philly Office Launches Pardon Project
Ballard is not just one of Philly’s powerhouse law firms, with 15 offices around the country: it’s won numerous awards for its pro bono service. This past month, 35 lawyers, paralegals and administrative assistants came together for a 90-minute CLE-approved program, learning about criminal records, expungements, sealings and pardons. At its end, the firm took its first 10 PLSE clients, agreeing to help them prepare applications for pardon that are critical to their and their families’ futures.

“Hearing from someone who has been held back by criminal records was very powerful,” said one of the attendee who signed up to help. Commenting on the new partnership, Lisa Swaminathan, Ballard’s Pro Bono Counsel, said, “PLSE made it easy to see how we can build pro bono teams across professional and subject matter lines, and make huge differences in the lives of Philadelphians.”

If your law firm is willing to join Ballard, Morgan, Dechert and (soon) Duane Morris in having a pro bono program that encourages community service and team building across professional lines , contact us!
Pardon Project Presents at Statewide "Apprenticeship Summit"
Earlier this month, PLSE presented a program on criminal records, expungements and pardons at the Pennsylvania Apprenticeship Summit (hosted by the PA Department of Labor & Industry in Hershey). The point was to explain how much apprenticeship programs can be improved, and workforces made more diverse, by knowing what criminal records are and are not, and the damage that they cause individuals and their families. “What I learned was eye-opening. A shock, really,” said one attendee about how criminal records can be misunderstood and misused. “Made me totally rethink how we’ve been deciding who to admit [into our apprenticeship program],” said another. “I know I can do this,” said a third about coaching employees who could use help applying for a pardon. 

Read the Good News for Employers and Employees flyer we created for the conference. If your trade or professional association would like us to make a presentation, we accept!  Contact us a nd let’s set a date.   
Pardon Project Steering Committee Brainstorms Pardon Reforms, Expanding Access
Some have received pardons, two are awaiting the Board of Pardon’s decision, others are still working on their applications, and a few are still on parole; but all 16 members of PLSE’s Pardon Project Steering Committee have lived experience that they bring to the leadership of PLSE’s Pardon Project. As a Committee, they debate approaches and priorities, advise PLSE’s staff leadership, and have made many of recommendations that PLSE has successfully championed in Harrisburg; suggested neighborhoods and locations where Pardon Hubs should be explored; and facilitated introductions to community leaders and organizations. PLSE thanks them for their service!
Pictured (L to R):  Wayne Jacobs, Josie Reed (Chair of the Committee), Akeem Sims, Evan Figueroa-Vargas
Today's Pardon Tip: Don't Wait, Get Started Now!
In its soon-to-be released study, the Economy League has documented that, over the past 5 years, anyone who files an application has better than 50-50 chance of getting a pardon – but more recently, the facts are even more amazing: at their last hearing, the Board of Pardons voted to support almost 90% of all applications that it heard, and Governor Wolf is accepting over 95% of the Board’s recommendations.

Simply put:  there has never been a better time to apply for a pardon!  If you have a conviction on your record and have several years of good citizenship to prove that you’ve changed, download the (free) application form , and get started on it now. To get tips and help you can use to make your application better, come to a (free) Pardon Workshops – we’re now holding them regularly in a growing number of neighborhoods. Check our schedule for the next ones.
How you can help:

  1. Contribute, contribute, contribute!
  2. Please join our growing list of supporters. All the stars are aligned and pardon reform is a real possibility. If ever there were a time to invest in our work, now is that time. Your gift will help create a system of restorative justice that will become a model for other states.

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