Reps. Gainey, Wheatley to host ‘Pathways 2 Pardons’ event next week

Event aims to streamline process, assist eligible individuals

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 29 – As Pennsylvania’s new Clean Slate law goes in effect, two Pittsburgh-area legislators are hosting a Pathways 2 Pardons event Tuesday in Wilkinsburg.

As part of their event, which will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hosanna House, state Reps. Ed Gainey, and Jake Wheatley, both D-Allegheny, are partnering with Brandon Flood, secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, to provide education and tips to people in the community who may be seeking a pardon.

This is a separate process than the Clean Slate Law, which automatically seals some criminal records. Since Clean Slate went into effect this year, more than 9 million cases have been sealed through the new automated process. The state estimates that more than 40 million offenses on 30 million cases across state and local judicial systems will be sealed by June 2020.

Still, millions of Pennsylvanians – many of them people of color living in low-income areas – may still find themselves facing discrimination over prior convictions.

People who have paid their debt to society and have been out of trouble for 10, 15 or 20 years should be given their lives back,” Gainey said. “There’s no reason for them to be carrying a criminal record after that debt has been paid. What we are providing them and other members of the community with is an opportunity to find out how to get their records sealed so they don’t run into discrimination when they’re going for employment or for housing.”

Anyone convicted of a summary, misdemeanor or felony crime in Pennsylvania is eligible to apply for clemency in the form of a pardon or commutation, although the process can take several years. Having a criminal record can have serious impacts on an individual’s ability to secure employment after release, as studies have found that 87 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks for some or all job applicants and the existence of a criminal record reduces job callbacks by 50 percent on average.

“Far too many of our citizens are impacted by past convictions that prevent them from getting the jobs and homes that they want, that prevents them from living the quality of life they want - even after they’ve paid their debt to society,” Wheatley said. “We need to help these individuals break down the barriers and stop being held back by their prior records, so that they too can have the opportunity to succeed.”

Research shows that among all individuals with criminal records, communities of color are most affected by incarceration and most put at a disadvantage by their criminal histories when seeking future employment. In Pennsylvania nearly 1-in-3 people have a criminal record, which can serve as a barrier to necessities, negatively impacting individuals, families and communities.