The Support Network for Returning Citizens recently hosted a Candidate and Voter Education Forum at the Days Inn on Roosevelt Boulevard. Featured candidates voiced their positions on giving residents of Philadelphia that have been incarcerated a chance for their voices to be heard.
According to one description posted on a Facebook page dedicated for this event, the forum was held to “provide an opportunity for returning citizens, their family members, and justice advocates to engage in a serious and informative discussion with the largest turnout of candidates leading up to the May 21 primary election date.”
The forum featured candidates from both the democratic and republican parties running for judge, traffic court judge, municipal court judge, city controller and street judge. The forum also featured an appearance and presentation from Chief Director for Commissioner Singer, Dennis Lee and the district attorney’s office was also there to answer any of questions audience members had.
The forum, held in the basement of the Days Inn, began at 6 p.m. with an introduction as well as noting a few house-keeping items and rules for the event. Note cards were also distributed to attendees so any questions they had for the candidates could be written down. The Support Network for Returning Citizens and Collaborating partners Karen Lee, Thomas Ford, Malik Aziz and Frederica Hoffman were also introduced.
At 6:20 p.m., the 14 candidates presentations began. Each candidate was allowed a three minute speech and audience members were allowed to ask questions. Candidates were allowed a two minute response to the questions.
During her speech, Tracey Roman said of wanting to run for judge, “Instead of complaining about [things], I want to be about [things]. As a criminal defense lawyer, I want to run for judge because of all the injustices that I see that go on.”
When speaking on the issues that go on within traffic courts, Temple University Law School graduate and candidate for traffic court judge, Robert Tuerk said, “In regards to favoritism and fixing tickets, everyone is going to get a fair trial.” Tuerk then went onto joke “I favor favoritism for everyone. Everyone is going to get a fair trial.”
“I need a second chance. Everyone here needs a second chance,” Tuerk said.
The forum covered many issues including Ban the Box, which according to Thomas Ford, is a law to get the question of whether or not a citizen has been incarcerated removed off job applications. If the question is removed, the employer is not allowed to ask any questions to the applicant about incarceration during their first meeting. This then gives the employer a better chance at seeing an applicant’s qualifications, rather than their criminal history. This law just passed in Philadelphia.
“That is fantastic,” said candidate for Municipal Court Judge Shoshana Bricklin. “I would make sure it’s enforced and that it goes further.”
Candidate presentations were originally scheduled to be two hours long, but ended up going over that due to late arrivals of some candidates. They were still given their chance to speak. Closing remarks were made by Malik Aziz.
The Support Network for Returning Citizens, according to their Facebook page, “will educate, organize and increase the civic engagement and political awareness of formerly incarcerated citizens in the City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania.”
The Support Network for Returning Citizens also helps to give voice to those returning citizens by helping them “to change laws, codes, rules and regulations that discriminate against citizens with criminal records.” The SR4C also addresses the laws and codes that may prevent returning citizens from obtaining their full benefits.
The SR4C specializes in voter education by holding “meet-the-candidates forums” and educating returning citizens on all of the aspects of the electoral process.