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Newsletter Vol 5 No 4

April 2023

Supporting Gov. Shapiro's FY24 Budget Increase for the PA Board of Pardons

The staff of the PA Board of Pardons is small, overworked and overwhelmed by all of the requests for pardon that are coming in from all over the state. Governor Shapiro has proposed a 25% increase in their budget so they can hire more people to process the applications and try to keep up with the surge in hope.

We need you!

We need you to sign our letter urging your state Representative and Senator to support Second Chances for people who have earned them. Tell your representatives that you and the state of Pennsylvania care and believe in second chances!

It's simple!

Click the link, fill in your contact information, and we take care of the rest! It takes one minute and will help make a future better for hundreds and hundreds of people. And don't forget to share with your coworkers, family, and friends!

PLSE joins forces with a new fund that offers loans to formerly incarcerated Philadelphians

The Fountain Fund, which provides low interest loans for returning citizens, has come to Philadelphia!

Already in Charlottesville, Richmond and New Orleans, the Fountain Fund was brought to Philadelphia by the Greenlight Fund (The Fund) which works to identify pressing needs in underserved communities. Recently, the Greenlight Fund’s Executive Director Felicia Reiner and the Fountain’s Philadelphia Director Mike Butler met with PLSE’S ED Renee Chenault Fattah. After the meeting, Reiner asked Chenault Fattah to join the Fund’s Local Advisory Committee to provide guidance and support for the Fountain Fund. The Fountain Fund offers loans from $250 to $15,000 for anyone who has been incarcerated, is currently working or has prospects for an entrepreneurial venture and can demonstrate how a loan can improve the quality of their life. The Fountain Fund in Philadelphia is run by Butler who started a reentry nonprofit while in prison and attracted the attention and support of DA Larry Krasner. The Fountain Fund is located at the Center for Employment Opportunities which is also funded by Greenlight.

In the coming months the Fountain Fund will be at PLSE clinics, offering information to clients on how they can apply for the loan.

Felicia Rinier, the ED of the GreenLight Fund and her assistant Danielle Hughes are pictured here with Fountain Fund ED Mike Butler and PLSE ED Renee Chenault Fattah.

Promise Clinic in Partnership with Community College of Philadelphia and the Office of Reentry Partnerships

Just like the weather, PLSE walk-in record-clearing clinics are heating up with no signs of slowing down! On Saturday, April 22, PLSE turned out in full force for a terrifically attended clinic hosted at the Spring Garden campus of CCP. Over 100 people turned out to complete intake and take the first steps toward clearing their records- WOW! And equally WOW is our amazing staff, who worked cheerfully and tirelessly for 3 hours on a sunny Saturday! All in all, an exciting day!

Second Clinic with DC33

PLSE was thrilled to host its second event in partnership with AFSCME DC33 on Saturday, April 15. Returning to their location at 3001 Walnut St, PLSE saw over 65 people seeking record clearing, with plans for more events and an ongoing relationship in the pipeline- stay tuned!   

HopePHL (formerly the People’s Emergency Center) Clinic in partnership with Penn Law

We told you clinics were heating up! Also on April 15th, we hosted our last clinic of the semester in partnership with Penn Law’s Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP). 40 people turned out to 40th and Lancaster and met with law students about a range of issues related to their criminal records. Many thanks to our always amazing Penn Law partners, especially our outgoing C-REP leaders Jordan Cohen-Kaplan and Maggie Sawin- congrats on graduation and good luck, Jordan and Maggie!

Simpson Thacher

Our first pardon clinic with new pro bono partner Simpson Thacher & Bartlett went terrifically! It went well. Every PLSE client invited showed up ready and eager, and the Simpson Thacher attorneys, led by their Pro Bono attorney Nihara Choudhri, blew us away, taking on double checking court costs, drafting their own pardon coaching manual, reaching out to clients to ensure attendance! 15 Simpson Thacher attorneys and 5 Pfizer attorneys worked in pairs with their clients. Keep an eye out for a summer encore!

PLSE Receives Three Wonderful Recognitions

A few years back, we were focused on community education about criminal records and on expunging whatever we could for our low-income clients in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Today, we and people who have lived experience in the criminal justice system – the Pardon Project Steering Committee (PPSC) - are helping communities all across the state come together to help their neighbors apply for pardons. Now, thousands of people are applying for pardons each year.

This past month, we were honored to receive two awards. The first was presented by the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) at their 50th Anniversary Celebration for Best Community Advocacy in the state. PPSC’s Chair, Akeem Sims, himself a pardon recipient accepted that award, and then was invited to meet with PLAN’s Board of Directors the next day. The second was the Paul Hoh Life Improvement Award which was presented by Berks Connections/Pretrial Services (PCPS), the Pardon Hub in Berks County; and the next day, it hosted the very first private screening of the film Pardon Me. PPSC Executive Committee member and film producer/director Shuja Moore was the keynote speaker for that event; he accepted the award along with Pardon Project Director Tobey Oxholm. If that weren’t enough, two of our most energetic volunteers were also honored. At the annual meeting of the York County Bar Association (YCBA), PA Bar Association President Jay Silberblatt and Pro Bono Coordinator David Trevaskis presented the PBA’s Pro Bono Partner Award to Alice Anne Frost, CEO of The Program-It’s About Change, in recognition of her leadership of the Pardon Project of York County (PPYC)! And PPYC co-founder Suzanne Smith was awarded the YCBA’s prestigious Jane M. Alexander Award for exemplary service in advancing the rights of women by example.

We are so excited to be making a difference around the state, and we thank PLAN, BCPS YCBA and our hundreds of volunteers for your vision, energy, commitment and support!

Pardon Project Expands to Northampton and Westmoreland Counties

Thanks to the support of District Attorneys, Bar Associations, Legal Aid, Community Action Agencies, Elected Officials … well, everyone really … the Pardon Project is sweeping across the state. Right now we are active in 15 counties (including the 4 where our partner Legal Aid of Southeastern PA is providing the services) and on the rise in 6 more. Last month you read about Westmoreland County’s first-ever Expungement and Pardon Clinic with the help of Pardon Hub Pittsburgh Community Services Inc. Thanks to the leadership of DA Jim Martin, Public Defender Kimberly Makoul, Lehigh County Bar Association President Nancy Conrad, and amazing volunteer Lark Kurtz, the Pardon Project of Lehigh County is assigning its first clients to its first Pardon Coaches. This pilot project will make sure is all ready to go at the first public clinic, which is scheduled for June 10.

Next in line, appearing soon, will be Crawford County and Cambria County. Watch this space for details!

Join our team!
PLSE is hiring! We are seeking a new Staff Attorney to join the PLSE team. Could it be you? Come work on a terrific team of passionate, dedicated individuals working for social change every day.

For more details and to apply, visit Idealist: Please share widely!
This Month’s Pardon Tip

Let’s talk about money! Worried about seeking clemency because you haven’t paid off the fines and fees on your case yet? Talk to PLSE! There are lots of options we can help you pursue, including fee waivers and payment plans- don’t let it be the reason you don’t make the call!

Nice words from our supporters

“There are so many people that need this to happen. We have paid our debt to society, shown we turned our lives around, and deserve a second chance! I think we should not have to have a hearing if we deserve it, of course we do! We go years on the straight path, we pay taxes, work hard, help others; what else do we need to do? I'll charge up this hill, not just for me, but all that deserve it!”

- Theodore (T.J.) Fitzgerald, Luzerne County

Staff Spotlight! 

Every week at our team meetings, we discuss all the amazing things different members of our team have done lately- which is always a LONG list! We want to share those amazing things with you! This month, the spotlight is shining on Senior Paralegal Robin Wynne! Fun fact- Robin is one of the longest-standing members of PLSE staff! Starting with us in April 2019 as PLSE’s first (and at the time, only!) paralegal, Robin has since risen to the role of Senior Paralegal, now managing a team of four amazing paralegals. Known affectionately as our Office Mom, Robin ably handles everything from expungement petition e-filing to pardon documents to keeping us running on sugar from Federal Donuts! PLSE runs on donuts- and Robin! Thanks for all you do, Robin!

Three ways YOU can help:

  1. Tell a friend about our digital literacy classes! Sign up here, or text us at 267-762-1976. 
  2. Ask us about a one-day pardon event for your workplace, school, or place of worship! We come to you, bring clients, and have a workshop session in which we complete pardon applications on the spot! It’s a great short-term way to get involved. CLE’s available! Contact Kristen Cherry at
  3. Current or former client? Complete our survey- tell us how we (and you!) are doing!  

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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