With thousands of ex-offenders in Philadelphia, those with convictions find themselves facing challenges in their efforts to return to normal society after their release from prison. This is especially true when it comes to employment.
For this reason, Wayne Jacobs, co-founder and executive director of X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, a non-profit organization which assist returning citizens in their attempts to successfully reintegrate with society after their release, is hosting Pardon Me Clinics in West Philadelphia.
“When looking at the issue of formerly convicted people, you have two sets of folks: you have one that is on probation and parole and then you have those who are no longer on probation or parole,” Jacobs said.
He noted the primary focus have been on those who are newly released from prison and currently under parole or probation supervision.
“They have not been focusing on folks who have been home and crime free and how to give them a second chance,” Jacobs said. X-Offenders for Community Empowerment has stepped in to help this often overlooked segment of the population by hosting Pardon-me clinics where they assist with pardon and expungement applications.
So what is the difference between a pardon and an expungement?
“It’s really simple,” Jacobs said. “If you were ever convicted for a misdemeanor or a felony, you would need to go to the governor to apply for a pardon.”
However, those arrested but never convicted or convicted of a summary offense and have been crime free for five years, was convicted of a non-violent offense as a juvenile or have reached the age of 70, you can apply to have your record expunged.
Oddly enough, you can also apply for an expungement three days after your death. Asked how a dead person could apply for an expungement? Jacobs could only answer:
“Good question, I haven’t figured that one out yet.”
The Pardon-Me Clinics are self-help clinics where attendants are guided through the process of applying for either pardons or expungements, said Jacobs.
“We do not do people’s work but we will assist them and show them how to do the work,” Jacobs said.
During clinics, attendants will be given a two-hour workshop which will explain the pardons and expungement process.
“They also explain what the Pardon Board wants to hear and what they don’t want to hear and we explain how to completely fill out the application. Once the application is completed, we will type it in a professional manner and file it for them.”
Since beginning this work seven years ago, the Pardon-Me Clinics have spread to six locations throughout Philadelphia as well as one in Pittsburg. All free to those who utilize their services.
“The only costs are what the state requires,” Jacobs said. “We do not charge. There is a cost to acquire your application, get your criminal background checks, get your picture taken and get copies and a filing fee but these are costs associated with the application process itself.”
The requirements and filing fees differ depending upon whether you are filing for an expungement or a pardon.
Those interested in learning more or wish to get the time and location of upcoming clinics can visit the X-Offenders for Community Empowerment website at offenders.org.
Pardon-Me clinics will be held at the Sayre/Morris Recreation Center at 5835 Spruce St., Monday, March 18, April 15, May 20 and June 17 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Call Darlene Waller at: (215) 685-1994 for more information.