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Understanding the Pardon Project: Helping Low-Income Philadelphians with Criminal Records Obtain a Fresh Start

About 100,000 low-income Philadelphia residents have turned around their lives since earlier entanglements with the criminal justice system. But with many employers and landlords including criminal records checks in their application processes, access to jobs, housing, credit, education, and other opportunities still can – and often does – remain elusive for those trying to start anew. The result is particularly stark for some low-income, primarily Black and Brown neighborhoods, where more than 60% of the adults there may have any variety of criminal records.

This reality led the state’s Auditor General and others to call on the PA Board of Pardons to increase the number of recommended pardons, and accelerate the process. Now, more than 80% of pardon applications heard are approved.

Sarah Coyle, Staff Attorney at Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity

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