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 Pennsylvania pardon attorney Joseph D. Lento at 888-535-3686 to learn more about the pardon process and whether you may be eligible for a pardon or expungement. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped countless clients overcome past mistakes to live a better life, and they may be able to do the same for you.