PLSE News: June 2019

PLSE News: June 2019


Pennsylvania Board of Pardons Logo


Diversified Community Services Logo


Akeem Sims (right) helping with expungement intakes at DCS


Mike Lee (left) and Jarue Lawson (right)


Judge Karen SimmonsJeff Brown

PA Board of Pardons Adopts Key Reforms Advocated By PLSE, Greatly Expanding Access To Pardons

Unlike other states, if you are ever convicted of a crime, your conviction will be part of your criminal record forever – unless you get a pardon from the Governor, which can only happen with the positive recommendation of the statewide Board of Pardons. PLSE has been working with the Board of Pardons for more than a year, urging them to revise the application form and process, which takes around three years and resulted in less than 10% of those purchasing the application ever receiving a hearing. PLSE’s persistence has paid off! In February, the Board of Pardons eliminated all application fees, put the application online in a format that can be downloaded and completed with computer, and eliminated the requirement to attach copies of records that took many months and dollars to obtain. On May 29, the Board issued an entirely new form. Adopting many of PLSE’s recommendations, it is much shorter and easier to understand. Most importantly, the Board agreed with PLSE to stop asking about any criminal charges that had been expunged, or erased, from the applicant’s record by order of a judge. The changes were called “revolutionary” by the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Read more about the new form.

PLSE Begins New Partnership With Diversified Community Services

Diversified Community Services (DCS) is the largest social service agency in Point Breeze. Serving nearly 8,000 children, youth, adults, and families, it emphasizes education and skill-building and works towards long-term economic and social well-being. Thanks to funding from the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), PLSE held its first Criminal Records Expungement Project community education and intake program at DCS on June 8. Over 50 people from the community came by to learn about criminal records and the opportunities for getting them cleaned up. “I am so excited about this development,” said Dr. Nikia Owens, Managing Director, Financial Empowerment for UWGPSNJ. “DCS is a great example of how a very diverse community can come together to offer programs and volunteers to help with a wide variety of needs. We are thrilled PLSE has connected with DCS, and our hope is that other United Way-funded agencies follow their lead.”

See our upcoming clinics.

Inaugural Mike Lee Fellow Completes Fellowship

Jarue Lawson joined PLSE last October as the first-ever Mike Lee Fellow in Criminal Justice. Created in honor of PLSE’s co-founder and first Executive Director and funded by his friends, the Mike Lee Fellowship is awarded to individuals who have or have had a criminal record, are interested in a career in criminal justice or community organizing, and have a commitment to social equity. For six months, the Fellow works alongside PLSE staff to engage with communities disproportionately affected by criminal records, representing PLSE within the community and helping PLSE better understand the challenges they are facing. Jarue attended more than a dozen meetings sponsored by a variety of organizations all around Philadelphia, helping inform people about criminal history records, how they hurt people and neighborhoods, and what can be done to eliminate them. Read the full report on his activities. PLSE will open a search for its next Mike Lee Fellow in August.

Support a Mike Lee Fellow!


At the Annual Meeting of PLSE’s Board of Directors, Philadelphia Judge Karen Yvette Simmons was elected Vice Chair of the Board, and Jeff Brown, founder and president of Brown’s Super Stores, was elected Treasurer.

See the full list of PLSE’s Board of Directors.

Three ways you can support PLSE:

Questions or comments? Email us or call us at 267-519-5323.