Pardons and the Power of a Second Chance: Part 1

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 11, 2021 | 0 Comments

Pardons are life-changing, and in the PBS mini-series The Power of a Pardon, viewers observe firsthand the compelling stories of formerly incarcerated individuals and their journeys through the Pennsylvania pardon process. For those affected, a pardon is more than the final step of their rehabilitative process. It is the first step towards truly getting their life back.

Efforts to Reform Pennsylvania's Pardon Process

In 2019, Pennsylvania began efforts to reform its slow and often arbitrary pardon process. Before that time, it took anywhere from three to five years for a pardon application to be processed, and many deserving applicants were denied. Now the process takes a little over two years, and pardons granted by the Governor automatically remove the criminal history records from Pennsylvania's Web Portal. In 2019, Governor Wolf granted 296 pardons (of 298 recommended). The following year, the Governor granted 438 of the 459 recommended pardons.

Living With a Criminal History and the Benefit of a Pardon

It is a misconception that when a felon successfully completes their term of incarceration (and supervision), their sentence is over. Unfortunately, the stigma of a criminal history negatively impacts one's ability to find housing, employment, receive certain government benefits, or apply for loans.

Receiving a pardon not only serves as recognition of a person's rehabilitative efforts it also restores a person's right to own firearms, serve in the military, serve as a juror, or hold public office.

The Power of a Pardon

By highlighting the stories of people who successfully applied for a pardon, the PBS series demonstrates the life-altering effects of a pardon.

Public servant. After his release from prison, Brandon served in multiple political-based roles (e.g., legislative aide, lobbyist). After receiving a pardon in 2019, Brandon became the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and now takes an active role in reforming the system. He is also directly involved in the pardon review process.

Immigration limbo. Rickie, a Cambodian refugee lawfully living in the United States since 1981, was detained and faced the possibility of deportation for a 20-year-old crime. He was pardoned in 2021, and he was also the lead plaintiff in a class action related to ICE detention practices, which he won alongside 1,900 other Cambodians.

Business owner. After her pardon, Gerri was able to achieve her dream of opening her own business. After being released from prison, Gerri held the same job for 19 years because she was afraid to apply for new employment with her criminal history. After her pardon, she was able to complete her education and apply for proper licensing to operate her own home health agency.

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

The five-part PBS series is certainly inspirational, and you can read more about the final two episodes in Part 2 of our series. If you or a loved one has a state criminal record and thinks you may qualify for a pardon, contact our Pennsylvania Criminal Law Team at 888-535-3686 to learn more about the pardon process and whether you may be eligible for a pardon or expungement. Our Criminal Law Team and the LLF Law Firm have helped countless clients overcome past mistakes to live a better life, and we may be able to do the same for you.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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