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A 10-year study finds some surprising news about Pennsylvania and pardons | Social Views

Patriot-News - 9/24/2020

People who have made mistakes in the past but are on the right track should be given a second chance to lead productive lives. That’s the consensus of PennLive readers who tuned into “Live On with Joyce Davis” this week to discuss the pardons and criminal justice reform with Brandon Flood, Secretary of the PennsylvaniaBoard of Pardons.

"People do deserve second chances, " wrote Tara Curtis Mead wrote. “We need to provide more opportunities for people who were incarcerated and want to rebuild their lives,” she said, “especially those who were convicted for non-violent offenses.”

A newly released study into what happens when people convicted of crimes get pardons in Pennsylvania supports that view. And Flood is eager to use the new Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) study to bring hope to even more people with criminal convictions blocking their paths to better jobs and a better life.

The study is encouraging. It investigated the 3,037 pardon applications filed in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2018 and found only 53 of the pardon applicants, or 1.7%, later committed crimes that sent them back to jail.

Even more encouraging, “Pardons and Public Safety: Examining A Decade of Recidivism Data in Pennsylvania” showed only two applicants, or less than 1 percent, were convicted of a violent crime.

Flood knows people can change. He did. He spent time in prison but after years of hard work, he received a pardon and is now in a position to help grant them. He wants to see the state help more people overcome past mistakes. But, as our readers pointed out, he also knows there still are too many obstacles blocking the paths of people with criminal convictions.

Many ex-offenders never completed their high school education. They struggle to find jobs and feel shunned in their communities.

“Re-entry of formerly incarcerated inmates could be very hard if one does not have a support system in place,” Mead wrote during the Facebook Live.

“Our society is not set up for the reformed to succeed in re-entering society,” Laine Snow added.

Meredith Cordero spoke from experience. “I was incarcerated,” she said. “I’m happy for second chances, but there’s so much more that needs to be accomplished in regards with second chances!”

The results of the PLSE study gives Flood and his pardons board a powerful tool to galvanize community support to provide more opportunities for ex-offenders to erase the blotches in their past. More businesses already are on board to provide jobs, and Flood said there are now many scholarships that help ex-offenders return to school and pursue higher education. All of that is essential, but there’s another vital ingredient, Debra Jackson suggested.

Is the state “doing an assessment of the needs of the issue families who have family members incarcerated?” she asked.

Jackson was right to put the issue of family support on the table. It’s a special problem for female ex-offenders. When they leave prison, Flood acknowledged, many don’t have family support or a loving spouse waiting home.

Our readers stressed they are all in favor of granting more pardons, but they want it done right. And that means Flood and the Pardons Board will have to ensure those who get them are not only deserving, but they have everything they need to succeed.

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