PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION CALLING ON THE PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PARDONS TO EXPEDITE THE PROCESS BY WHICH PARDON APPLICATIONS FROM NON-INCARCERATED CITIZENS CAN BE HEARD
WHEREAS, over the past few years, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has changed the application process so that it is hearing more applications each year, but even with these reforms, the most applications it has heard in any one year is only 363;1 and
WHEREAS, by contrast, 25,000 people (on average) return to Philadelphia from incarceration in local, state, and federal jails and prisons every year2 and ninety-one percent (91%) of them are released to addresses in low-income neighborhoods3 , demonstrating not only the substantial number of Philadelphians with criminal records, but also the compounding problem faced by low-income/high-arrest neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, as of February 14, 2019, there were 1,300 applications that had been filed with the Board of Pardons but not yet assigned to an investigator – that is, virtually every application for pardon filed after January 1, 2016 – which will take more than two years to investigate4; and
WHEREAS, this backlog is preventing Pennsylvanians from obtaining jobs, housing, education, credit and other opportunities for which they are qualified – and the backlog will only increase now that the application process has been reformed and made so much more accessible; and
WHEREAS, the two largest workforce development agencies in Pennsylvania have confirmed, as recently as March 7, 2019, that “it is undeniable that criminal records are a major factor in keeping people in poverty”5; and
WHEREAS, on March 14, 2019, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons unanimously voted to eliminate all application fees and to post the application forms online, and, further, on April 8, 2019, announced the appointment of Brandon Flood, himself the recipient of a pardon, as the new Secretary of the Board, thereby clearly expressing its intention to make the pardon process far more accessible to Pennsylvanians with criminal records; and
WHEREAS, the only way for an individual who is not 70 years old to remove a conviction of crime from her or his record is by first obtaining a pardon from the Governor following application to and recommendation by the Board of Pardons6; and
WHEREAS, every other state in the nation that grants 100 or more applications per year does so in a process that takes one year or less;7
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association expresses its appreciation to and support for the Lieutenant Governor, who chairs the Board of Pardons, and the full Board of Pardons for its recent actions making the possibility of obtaining a pardon far more accessible, thereby increasing hope for better lives for those who have turned their lives around and merit a second chance.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association calls on the Board of Pardons to develop policies and procedures that will allow the Board to hear within one year from the date the application is filed as many applications as possible from non-incarcerated individuals who have been successfully living and working in our communities.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee to communicate the content of this resolution to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the other members of the Board of Pardons, state and local public officials, other bar associations, chambers of commerce and trade associations, and the public at large, and to take such other action as may be appropriate.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: April 25, 2019
2 Calculating a Unified Recidivism Rate for Philadelphia, Philadelphia Reentry Coalition (March 2015)
4 Source: Krista Callear, Acting Director, Bureau of Standards and Accreditation, PA Board of Probation and Parole.
5 Letter of Earl Buford, CEO, Partner4Work, January 10, 2019; letter of H. Patrick Clancy, President and CEO, Philadelphia Works, Inc., March 7, 2019.
6 § 9. Pardoning power; Board of Pardons.
(a) In all criminal cases except impeachment the Governor shall have power to remit fines and forfeitures, to grant reprieves, commutation of sentences and pardons; but no pardon shall be granted, nor sentence commuted, except on the recommendation in writing of a majority of the Board of Pardons, and, in the case of a sentence of death or life imprisonment, on the unanimous recommendation in writing of the Board of Pardons, after full hearing in open session, upon due public notice.
7 Alabama: 500 pardons granted per year in process that takes approximately one year; Connecticut: 400 pardons granted per year in approximately one year; Delaware: over 250 pardons granted per year in approximately six months; Nebraska: over 100 pardons granted per year, in approximately one year; Oklahoma, 100 pardons granted per year in approximately six months.