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CLS Presents Client Roundtable with HUD Sec. Castro and Attorney General Lynch

Employment, Housing

CLS Presents Client Roundtable with HUD Sec. Castro and Attorney General Lynch

On Monday, April 25, 2016, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro kicked off National Reentry Week with a listening session with clients of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS).  These individuals informed the cabinet members about the challenges that they have faced because of their criminal records.

Ronald Lewis, Tyrone Peake and Helen Stokes all described employment and housing difficulties presented by their minimal criminal records.  Sharon Dietrich, Litigation Director of CLS, connected the clients’ barriers to legal and policy solutions.  Although the roundtable was held privately, the individuals have published their stories on, “What I Told the Attorney General and HUD Secretary about My Criminal Record.”

Mr. Lewis, who has two misdemeanors that are more than 10 years old, describes his repeated rejections from jobs, saying, “So many doors have been closed in my face I know what wood tastes like.”  Ms. Stokes told about being turned down from senior housing for an arrest record that had been expunged.

Ms. Dietrich described the tremendous client demand for representation for employment problems caused by criminal records.  She also detailed policy solutions, such as Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate bills (SB 1197/HB 1984), bipartisan legislation which would automatically seal minor convictions and non-convictions after time has passed. 

In a speech after the roundtable, Attorney General Lynch said, “I want to salute one of our grantees, Community Legal Services, which works so hard to help Philadelphians with criminal histories to get back on the right track.  Earlier today, CLS organized a tremendous roundtable for us.  It was an invaluable opportunity to hear from men and women working to start over after becoming involved with the justice system and their stories offered a powerful reminder that even for those who have long been on the right track, a criminal history can make it enormously difficult to turn the page.  I want to thank the men and women who participated in the roundtable and I commend their inspiring resilience. “

HUD Secretary Castro announced the agency’s award of Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program (JRAP) grants, to help youth who have been involved in the criminal justice system find jobs and housing.  HUD awarded a $100,000 JRAP grant to the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and CLS.

The event was held at PHA’s Raymond Rosen Manor Auditorium in Philadelphia.

Community Legal Services (CLS) has been representing thousands of Philadelphians with criminal records for two decades.  We are gratified that Reentry Week will call attention to the overreliance on criminal records, which creates barriers to jobs, housing and education and contributes to the deep poverty experienced by so many in our city.