PLSE Names Phoenicia Wallace Its Next Executive Director

PLSE Names Phoenicia Wallace Its Next Executive Director

October 1, 2019. Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) announced today that Phoenicia D.W. Wallace has been appointed its new Executive Director. She is the second to hold the post, following Mike Lee, who was one of the organization’s founders and left PLSE to become Director of Legislation and Public Affairs for District Attorney Krasner. She takes office today.

“We are thrilled to have such a well-respected and well-connected attorney join PLSE at this exciting time,” said Ryan Allen Hancock, Chair of the PLSE Board of Directors and one of the organization’s founders. “For many reasons, our society is now very concerned about the fairness of the discretion exercised throughout the criminal justice system, and about the truly horrible, inter-generational damage done by criminal history records to individuals, their families, and whole neighborhoods. PLSE is at the forefront in organizing low-income communities around this crisis, and in advocating for statewide changes to our pardon and record expungement systems. Phoenicia Wallace is well prepared to lead these efforts at the local, state and even federal levels.”

Now in her seventh year of practice, Ms. Wallace was most recently a Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, serving in the Bureau of Consumer Protection. A life-long Philadelphian who lives in Germantown, her path to PLSE has taken her through the Entrepreneurship Program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, the Peace Corps in Kenya, the district office of State Senator Anthony H. Williams and the legislative office of City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, and four years as a staff attorney and law clerk within the Philadelphia Court System. For two years, she was the weekly host of “Universally Speaking” on WURD, where she connected community leaders and helped to develop and support the implementation of a consensus agenda for change and progress. Among other things, she serves on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Federal Judicial Advisory Panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and speaks Swahili and Spanish.

“I am passionate about public service,” said Ms. Wallace, “and particularly passionate about helping people and communities in the city that I love. I am humbled by the confidence that the Board of Directors has in me, and proud to be asked to follow Mike Lee and Tobey Oxholm in leadership of such a vibrant organization.”

Tobey Oxholm, who had served as interim executive director, will continue with PLSE as the Director of its Pardon Project.

PLSE Releases Report on First Year of Pardon Project

PLSE Releases Report on First Year of Pardon Project

August 6, 2019. Nearly one year after the launch of the Pardon Project, PLSE has reviewed all of its efforts and what has been achieved in this first year of the project in a brand new report. The report highlights how we have redefined the pardon issue alongside efforts in administrative reform and community outreach. While much remains to be done, the significant reforms that have already been made – thanks to the leadership of recently-elected Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and recently-appointed Board Sec. Brandon Flood – are generating new hope among those with criminal record histories and creating new partnerships with professional and community organizations willing to help them.

Read the full report here.

PLSE Newsletter: July 2019

PLSE Newsletter: July 2019


Help us get our new fiscal year off to a great start!

Contribute $200 to support a client’s expungement
or $5,000 to sponsor an expungement clinic helping as many as 100 client – or anything inbetween!

 

Expungement Project Ends Best Year Ever, Begins Next Record-Breaking Year

PLSE’s very first Criminal Record Expungement Project intake was held in February 2011 at Enon Baptist Tabernacle Church. So many people came asking for help with their records that it took our volunteer attorneys, plus many helpers from the church, two days to get to everyone.

Eight years later, with just a staff of two for most of the year and almost 100 volunteer law students, we gave 55 community presentations on criminal records, held 47 intake sessions for expungements, accepted 1,115 low-income clients into our expungement project, and filed over 2,200 expungement petitions with a success rate of over 99%.

Our next expungement intake clinic will be on Monday, August 5, from 1pm-4pm at the Institute for Community Justice, 1207 Chestnut Street, 2nd Floor. Click here for all upcoming clinic dates.

Akeem Sims with a client

Volunteers Attend Pardon Hearings in Harrisburg, Witness History Being Made

The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons holds public hearings four times each year to consider applications for clemency – pardons and commutations of sentences and parole. The hearings are held in the majestic, and very intimidating, Supreme Courtroom, with dozens of people watching. On May 29, our student interns and several members of our Pardon Project Steering Committee attended to learn more about the Board members’ concerns, so that we could better advise Pardon Project clients and volunteer guides about the pardon process.

Not only did our team have the opportunity to speak with Board Secretary Brandon Flood (pictured), but they saw history being made: for the first time ever, the Board of Pardons endorsed every application for a pardon, making only a few subject to conditions. Zero applicants were denied! This is just another sign that the Board, under the chairmanship of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is taking a brand new approach to what a pardon means.

PLSE Staff in Harrisburg

Today’s Tip: Pardon Applications and Juvenile Records

For over a year, PLSE has been urging the Board of Pardons that they should stop asking applicants about their juvenile records, which enters that information on to the public record. Not only are these cases often decades old, but the law says they are supposed to be confidential! Although we have not yet succeeded in removing this question from the application, the Board has agreed that it does not need to know about any criminal record that has been expunged.

If you believe that you may have a juvenile record or arrest in Philadelphia, call the Defender Association juvenile expungement hotline at 267-765-6770 and see if you are eligible to have the case expunged!

Akeem Sims
Glenn Barnes

PLSE Board Elects Two New Members

At its quarterly meeting in June, the PLSE Board of Directors said thank you and goodbye to one of its longest-serving members, Jennifer Sperling – one of PLSE’s original directors who is now a public interest lawyer in Los Angeles – and to one of its most famous, artist Russell Craig – who taught himself art while an inmate in Graterford Prison and just received a fully-funded scholarship from the Ford Foundation to attend Bard College in New York City!

Taking their places on the Board are Akeem Sims, a very active member of the Pardon Project Steering Committee and presenter at several attorney continuing legal education programs on the pardon process. We also welcome Glenn Barnes, an attorney and an award-winning professor at Peirce College (now retired) and poet who has been volunteering with PLSE in several capacities over the past years, including reviewing expungement petitions, helping with the Pro Bono Paralegal Project, and editing grant applications.

Click here to read more about PLSE’s Board of Directors – a truly remarkable, engaged, and diverse group.

Three ways you can help:

  1. Sponsor a client’s expungement for $200 or an entire clinic for $5,000!
  2. Invite us to speak with a community organization about becoming a Pardon Hub
  3. Write the Board of Pardons and urge them to stop asking pardon applicants for their confidential juvenile court records: Honorable Brandon J. Flood, Secretary, Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, 333 Market Street, 15th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333

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

Click here to see the full newsletter.

Understanding Clean Slate and Expungements

Understanding Clean Slate and Expungements

On June 28, 2019, a law called “Clean Slate” went into effect across Pennsylvania. This law does not actually “clean,” or erase, anything. Over the next year, it will “seal” cases automatically and expand what is eligible for “sealing” by a court order. In a nutshell, “sealing” means it will hide eligible case information from public view, including the UJS Portal. This law expands on an older version of the law, and the great part about the automatic sealing is that you will not need to hire a lawyer or pay for the service.

Clean Slate does not change what is seen by the police, prosecutors, or organizations using the FBI database for background checks (such as schools, hospitals, and casinos). Clean Slate is also very complicated; it does not apply in many cases. If you would like to know if you are eligible, we strongly recommend that you request a review of your case here from Community Legal Services.


You can learn more about the new law here.

To have something really cleared off your record permanently, and not just hidden, you need to get an expungement. If you have been convicted of a crime – basically, any misdemeanor or felony ending with a guilty verdict or guilty plea – then you will need a pardon from the Governor to remove it from your record. Clean Slate does not change any of these processes.


If you are unsure whether you are eligible for an expungement of your record, come to an expungement clinic where a volunteer will
review your record with you one-on-one.

Generally speaking, the following situations are eligible for automatic sealing:

  • criminal charges that were dropped, dismissed, or withdrawn and did not end in a conviction (guilty verdict or guilty plea):
  • convictions for all summary offenses and some 2nd and 3rd degree misdemeanors (M2, M3):
    • only if you have not been arrests or convicted within the past 10 years; and
    • only if you have paid off all fines and fees on the relating conviction.

As you can see, Clean Slate is complicated and also has many other exceptions. If you want to know whether you are eligible, you should request a review for your sealing eligibility.

For expungements, the following situations are eligible:
  • If you have any charges ending in a nonconviction (e.g., dismissed, withdrawn, nolle prossed), regardless of whether they were a sumamry offense, misdemeanor, or felony;
  • If you completed an ARD or other diversionary program;
  • If you have a summary offense plus 5 years without any arrests or convictions; or
  • If you are over 70 years old plus 10 years without any arrests or convictions.
Resources:

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!


BREAKING NEWS

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.

Inaugural Mike Lee Fellowship Report

Report on the Inaugural Mike Lee Fellowship

Tobey website

On October 1, 2018, the inaugural Mike Lee Fellow, Jarue Lawson, began working with PLSE. A Philadelphia native, Jarue was an honors student throughout his schooling. He briefly went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Community College of Philadelphia. He worked at multiple jobs and ran the streets (guns and drugs), leading to his incarceration. He was a certified tutor for 6 years while incarcerated, a dedicated reader, and constantly engaged in real conversations about identity and serving people. Jarue’s plan has always been to serve his community, which is something he learned from family, particularly his mother and oldest sister.

Over the course of the Mike Lee Fellowship (which was created and is funded by Friends of Mike), Jarue’s outreach efforts led to him meeting and speaking with more than 300 people impacted by criminal records. In addition to attending intake clinics for PLSE’s Criminal Records Expungement Project, Jarue represented PLSE at a number of community and partner events around the city. Some highlights were:

  • Oct 5, 2018: Beyond the Walls Prison Summit, hosted by Philadelphia FIGHT!
  • Oct 24, 2018 & Jan 30, 2019: Quarterly Stakeholder Meetings of the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition
  • Nov 3, 2018: College & Career Fair at Beloved St. John Evangelistic Church, in Wyoming
  • Nov 9, 2018: Grant interview with the Patricia Kind Family Foundation
  • Nov 10, 2018: Community Job Fair at Prince of Peace Baptist Church, in Strawberry Mansion
  • Dec 20, 2018: Board of Pardons Hearing, in Harrisburg
  • Apr 10, Apr 16, & May 2, 2019: Councilperson Cherelle Parker’s Town Hall Meetings, in Northwest Phila.
  • Apr 22, 2019: Interview with Renee Chenault Fattah on WURD Radio
  • May 15, 2019: Resource Fair hosted by SELF, Inc., in Ludlow
  • June 8, 2019: Expungement Clinic hosted by Diversified Community Services, in Point Breeze

Jarue was creative with how he incorporated the Fellowship into his daily life. He became a Mike Lee Fellow six months after being released from 20 years in prison, which meant that on top of working for PLSE, he was also searching for stable employment and housing. He was offered a job with Amazon’s delivery service since they do not run criminal background checks on employees. Jarue reported that he often saw other men who were inside of prison with him, and so Jarue would talk with them about their options for clearing their criminal records, employment rights, voting rights, and other related issues. He always took PLSE’s flyers to every event he attended in his community. Even though his Fellowship has ended, Jarue reports that he continues to get calls about criminal records and to share his story and experiences.

“The staff at PLSE was fully engaged with the fellowship and they were honest with me about what they felt my role should be. Everything we discussed came true. My networking possibilities and job opportunities have increased and my experience in these various nonprofit spaces was rich. The most important thing to me is being able provide a resource to the people and have it be meaningful. PLSE does work that the community needs and being provided a chance to be a part of that has pushed my life forward in ways I can’t quantify!” – Jarue Lawson

During his time with PLSE, Jarue has proven to be a valuable liaison between the community and the organization. He demonstrated a dedication to and passion for meeting others where they are and informing them on their rights. His presence at events, often as PLSE’s sole representative helped PLSE build and maintain not just presence but partnerships in affected communities. The next Mike Lee Fellow starts in October.

– Read more about the Mike Lee Fellowship here.
– Download a PDF of this report here.
– For questions about the fellowship, please contact Katherine Zuk, Director of Communications & Outreach.

Board of Pardons Releases “Revolutionary” New Application

Pardon Board Releases “Revolutionary” New Application,
Sets New Standard For Clarity And Access

June 11, 2019. The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons today posted on its website a new and almost completely redesigned Application for Clemency that promises to make pardons far more accessible for the average citizen.

A year ago, the application was 20 pages long, included 3 government forms and 12 pages of instructions, and was written in difficult to understand, official terms. The new form is half as long, and written in words much more commonly used. It eliminates most of the ways mistakes were made in the past (no longer asking, for example, that applicants copy numbers appearing on attached documents). It also gives the applicant the choice of whether or not to include a personal statement, and makes it clear that an applicant does not have to include information about any criminal charges that a judge has expunged (erased) from the applicant’s record – a requirement that had received strong objections from the Philadelphia and Allegheny County Bar Associations, among others.

“Under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Secretary Brandon Flood, the Board of Pardons has, within just a few short months, put the possibility of a pardon within the reach of thousands of Pennsylvanians, especially those who are unable to afford an attorney,” said Rochelle M. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. “This revolutionary new form was unanimously adopted by the Board of Pardons. That fact speaks volumes about the Board’s shared commitment to redefine what a pardon means – not just to individuals and their families, but to whole communities.”

The presidents of the Workforce Development Boards of both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have recently confirmed that “criminal records are undeniably a major factor in keeping people and families in poverty.” Marcel Pratt, Philadelphia’s City Solicitor, has recognized the importance of pardons to entire communities that have been afflicted by persistent poverty: “For us, in Philadelphia,” he has said, “removing criminal records is not just the right thing to do for individuals, and not just the right thing to do for their families: it is a critical and essential neighborhood investment strategy. We have to get people working at their highest and best levels. And best of all, removing their stigma costs us nothing – it’s entirely free.”

“If people see a pardon as a viable option, they will continue to be productive citizens,” Secretary Flood has said. “My own story shows them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I thank Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity for its persistence in pushing us to re-examine our processes and to make the many reforms that are included in this new application. I am confident it will make all the difference to thousands of Pennsylvanians who have turned their lives around.”

Read the full press release here.

PLSE News: May 2019

PLSE News: May 2019


To Our Friends and Supporters:

There is no doubt that PLSE is right in the center of many reforms that are pulsing through the criminal justice system, especially dealing with the legacy of mass incarceration that is hitting Pennsylvania so hard. Things are happening so fast that we are finding it difficult to keep our quickly-growing list of stakeholders, funders and partners up to date. So we’re starting an e-newsletter! Email us to let us know what you think of it, or what you want to read about. Thank you, as always, for your support!

 

Brandon Flood at PLSE Video Shoot Day

 
 
 
 

Rachel Miller hard at work

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lenfest Foundation logo

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

SEPMA Logo


New PA Board of Pardons Secretary Appears in PLSE Videos

Brandon Flood had not been Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons for more than ten days before he agreed to help with our Video Project and be a Pardon Coach. On Saturday, April 20, eight people came to Drexel University to talk about what it was like to apply for a pardon and share their advice. Secretary Flood was one: he had been convicted of two felonies and served nine years in prison before being pardoned by Gov. Wolf. Award-winning TV news anchor and PLSE Board member Renee Chenault Fattah leads the Project and conducted the interviews; students from Drexel’s Dragon Productions directed the lights, cameras and action. We are now in the process of editing the tapes, with the hope of having 16 Youtube-style videos posted on our website before the end of summer. Thanks to the Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation for funding this project!


Long-Time Defender Rachel Miller Appointed Head of Expungement Project

PLSE held its first Criminal Records Expungement Project intake at Enon Baptist Tabernacle Church in February 2011. Since then, with just 1 or 2 attorneys on staff at any one time, we have helped over 3000 low-income Philadelphians expunge information from their criminal history records, filing a total of 2,914 expungement petitions on behalf of more than 650 people just in 2018, with a success rate of 99%. We can do this thanks in very large measure to an excellent working relationship with the staff of the First Judicial District, and more than 100 law student volunteers from Penn and Drexel who conduct intake and prepare draft petitions throughout the academic year. We were delighted last October when Rachel Miller joined us after six years of service as an attorney with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and she was appointed head of the Expungement Project on May 10. We hired Robin Wynne as our first full-time paralegal, and are looking to hire another staff attorney to round out the team.


Lenfest Foundation Funds First-Ever Study of Economic Impact of Pardon Reform

Criminal records are undeniably a major factor in keeping people and families in poverty. With upwards of 60% of the adults living in some low-income, high-arrest neighborhoods having criminal records, and 87% of all employers checking (not always legally) on-line criminal records as part of the hiring process, it’s no wonder that City Solicitor Marcel Pratt has called removing criminal records “a critical and essential neighborhood investment strategy.” In a pathbreaking study proposed by PLSE and funded by the Lenfest Foundation, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia is assessing the economic impact that pardons could have on low-income, high-arrest communities, as a part of workforce development initiatives. The initial results of the study are expected in September.


Unions, Trade Group, Bar Associations Join PLSE in Calling for Pardon Reform

It takes 3 years from the time someone files an application for a pardon to get a hearing before the Board of Pardons. On March 8, 2019, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Manufacturing Alliance, a multi-employer collaborative comprised of almost 60 regional manufacturers, became the first to adopt a Resolution that “endorse[d] the use of the Governor’s pardon power as an appropriate, powerful, no-cost means to attack persistent intergenerational and neighborhood poverty.” It called on the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, and the Board of Pardons to reform the process “so that thousands of non-incarcerated Pennsylvanians can have their applications heard every year.” Since then, two leading unions – 1199C and UNITEHERE Local 634 – have adopted that same Resolution, and the Allegheny County Bar Association and Philadelphia Bar Association adopted pardon reform resolutions of their own. More are expected.


Three ways you can support PLSE:

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

PLSE Opens Search for Executive Director

PLSE Opens Search for Executive Director

May 21, 2019. Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) announced today that it has begun a nationwide search for its next permanent Executive Director. The search is expected to be concluded before the end of the summer.

“This is the perfect time for our organization to welcome our next permanent Executive Director,” said Ryan Allen Hancock, Chair of PLSE’s Board of Directors. “Over the past eighteen months, we have attracted many new foundations and individuals as contributors, tripled our revenues, doubled the size of our staff, and developed a large and dynamically diverse Board of Directors who are passionate about our mission and engaged in our work. We are working with the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to develop new pathways to pardons, expanding our Expungement Project to North Philadelphia, and training law firms and non-profits to provide neighborhood-based criminal record-clearing services – all in a city that is leading the nation in the depth, breadth and speed of its efforts to rethink and reform the criminal justice system. It’s a very exciting time for us.”

Founded in 2010, PLSE provides free legal representation to low income Philadelphians whose criminal records are holding them back from achieving the housing, jobs, and other benefits for which they are qualified, and from contributing their full potential as members of their families and communities. The services include seeking expungements in criminal court and pardons from the Governor, educating elected, business and other community leaders about the unintended damage caused by criminal history records, creating community-based Pardon Hubs, and empowering under-resourced communities to seek a greater voice and needed systemic reforms. PLSE is a recipient of the 2018-2019 Barra Award as an Exemplary Non-Profit Organization, and is recognized by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey as providing services crucial to ending inter-generational poverty.

“Depending on how quickly our next Executive Director comes on board,” continued Hancock, “she or he will be able to participate in the hiring of a new attorney and paralegal, the development of three new Pardon Hubs that are already in process, and the creation of a strategic plan. This is an exceptional opportunity for an experienced public interest advocate to assume the leadership of an organization that is widely respected, well-financed, and rapidly expanding to meet a critical public need.”

PLSE will accept and review applications until the position is filled. It expects to begin interviewing candidates the week of June 12 and to have the new Executive Director in place by September 3. The current Interim Executive Director is expected to remain with PLSE as an independent contractor, assisting with fundraising and the development of the Pardon Project. More information on the position is available on the PLSE website’s dedicated page.

Download a PDF of this press release here and download a PDF of the position description here.

Staff Attorney Rachel Miller named Director, Expungement Project

Staff Attorney Rachel Miller named Director, Expungement Project

May 10, 2019. Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) announced today that Staff Attorney Rachel L. Miller has been named Director of the Criminal Records Expungement Project and that Robin Wynne has been hired as the organization’s first staff paralegal.

“Rachel Miller is almost uniquely qualified to lead our Expungement Project,” said Tobey Oxholm, PLSE’s Interim Executive Director. “For her entire legal career, she has helped low-income Philadelphians who are involved in the criminal justice system, gaining invaluable experience and developing relationships with people who have spent decades in Pennsylvania state prisons. She is quick to gain their trust, very effective in court, and well-respected by prosecutors and judges alike.” Immediately prior to joining PLSE in October 2018, Miller had served with the Defender Association of Philadelphia for four years as a trial attorney and thereafter as a mitigation specialist for two years, working in the Juvenile Lifer Unit.

“I know firsthand how important expungements are for those seeking better jobs, housing, education, credit and other opportunities, and the insurmountable obstacles that criminal records add to the already difficult circumstances lower income Philadelphians face,” said Miller. “The elimination of criminal records is an essential strategy for dealing not just with the legacy of mass incarceration, but with poverty. I look forward to being at the forefront of this important project.”

The appointment of Robin Wynne marks the first time that PLSE has had a paid paralegal position. “Private law firms have long known how effective paralegals are in maximizing the efficiency of attorneys,” said Oxholm. “Robin impressed us with her passion for helping people, and she is a great addition to our team.” Wynne received her Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies degree from the Community College of Philadelphia and is a recipient of its Paralegal Studies Award. The position is made possible by a grant from the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.

These staff changes come at a time when PLSE is rapidly expanding in size and adopting a community-based approach to attacking the inter-generational harm that criminal records cause individuals, families and whole neighborhoods. In just two years, it has more than doubled in size and taken on a leadership role statewide in reforming the pardon process. With the support of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, PLSE is creating its first two “Pardon Hubs” in Philadelphia by which community non-profits can help residents apply for pardons. PLSE expects to hire two more attorneys and another paralegal in the near future.

Read the full press release here.