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Dozens spend MLK Day looking for a second chance at a clean record

(Zane Johnson (left) of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity speaks with Leon Sullivan at a pardon and expungement workshop at Shepard Recreation Center on Monday during MLK Day.)

Mensah M. Dean

"While thousands of volunteers fanned out across the region Monday to spruce up forlorn places to mark Martin Luther King Day, about 100 people gathered at West Philadelphia’s Shepard Recreation Center to learn how to clean up their own backyards — that is, their criminal records.​"

MLK Day gave many the opportunity to get some guidance on how to do just that. At the "Pathways to Pardons Expungement" a three-hour workshop, hosted by State Representative Morgan Cephas and Lt. Governor Mike Stack, individuals learned about processes for getting a criminal record expunge or sealed, getting a pardon, and how those who are incarcerated can get sentence commutations. ""The elected officials also gave words of inspiration to an audience composed largely of folks who have struggled financially for years under the weight of their criminal records." “Martin Luther King talked about equality so that we all have an equal playing field,” said Cephas, who told the audience that her father had served five years in prison and had a hard time finding work after he was released. “Today represents the need to move the needle…so you are not wearing the scarlet letter and you can get the job that you need.” “Everybody makes mistakes,” said Stack, a member of the state Board of Pardons. “I’m about more than second chances. I’m about third chances, fourth chances, if you’ve shown that now you’ve got it right and you understand. The key thing is we want everyone to have a clear record.”"

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