Pardons as Neighborhood Economic Investment: It is Time to Focus On Financial Stability, Not Moral Redemption
Keywords:pardons, philadelphia, justice system
In February 2021, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity received the Greater Philadelphia 2021 Innovation Award in the category—not of law or criminal justice—but economic development and social services. This article explains why.
The United States is the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. Black Pennsylvanians are 8.9 times more likely, and Latinx Pennsylvanians 3.3 times more likely, to be incarcerated than white Pennsylvanians. In 2016, 1 of every 35 Philadelphians was on probation or parole, and there were more people under supervision in Pennsylvania than there were residents of Pittsburgh. Long after they have fully served their sentences and “repaid their debts to society,” those with criminal records suffer a long list of “post-punishment punishments” that keep them, their families, and whole neighborhoods in poverty for generations. The only way to erase that record is through a pardon from the Governor—and Governor Wolf has signed 1,559 pardons, more than any other governor in history. In less than a decade, pardons brought $16.7 million into local economies across the state, and they cost (and risk) next to nothing. Society stands to enjoy massive benefits from issuing more pardons as a community development strategy, and historically under-resourced, over-policed communities can achieve a social justice outcome by utilizing a powerful administrative mechanism that is already in place.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Tobey Oxholm, Judge Karen Simmons
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