Rep. Jordan Harris' Biography
State Representative Jordan Harris State Representative Jordan Harris has emerged as a rising star and leading progressive voice in the Pennsylvania legislature on issues that matter most to his constituents, including criminal justice reform and education reform. First chosen to represent the 186th Legislative District on Nov. 6, 2012, Harris was most recently selected by his colleagues to serve as the Democratic Caucus Whip for the 2019-20 legislative session. This historic leadership election saw the Pennsylvania House Democrats select their most diverse leadership team ever elected. The Whip is the second highest ranking position in leadership behind only the caucus leader, and Harris is only the second African American to hold the position of Whip for the Democratic Caucus and the youngest member of leadership in either the House or the Senate. Harris previously served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.
Harris has become a national leader on the topic of criminal justice reform and often sought out to attend panel discussions and criminal justice reform events around the country. With Republican co-sponsor Sheryl Delozier, Harris helped author Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law. The law was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in June 2018 and was hailed as a national model for the automatic sealing of certain criminal records. By June 2020, it’s expected that up to 30 million criminal records will be automatically sealed in Pennsylvania. Since the passage of Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law multiple other states have passed automatic record sealing legislation and Congress currently has Clean Slate legislation awaiting action.
In a bipartisan fashion, Harris is again championing criminal justice reform in the 2019-20 legislative session by cosponsoring, with Delozier, a bill to reform Pennsylvania’s outdated, archaic, and overly punitive probation system. The bill, with wide bipartisan support from both legislators and advocates, would help reduce technical violations that hold individuals under a constant state of supervision. Recognizing that probation is the quick sand of the criminal justice system, meaning the harder you try to get out the more it pulls you back in, Harris hopes to alleviate the financial strain placed on Pennsylvania by focusing on people who don’t need the attention while helping formerly incarcerated and convicted individuals move on from probation to live a successful life and be important members of their community.
Prior to being elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Harris focused on his passion for helping children and young adults as he was appointed as the Executive Director of Philadelphia's Youth Commission where he advised the Mayor, City Council and other key decision-makers on issues relating to the city's youth and young adults. In this office, Harris spearheaded initiatives that helped address and ultimately end Philadelphia's outbreak of nuisance flash mobs, including extending the hours of the city's recreation centers and creating alternative activities. He was also instrumental in designing Slam Dunk, a summer program that assisted over 600 high school students in meeting credit requirements for graduation.
After graduating from Philadelphia’s John Bartram Motivation High School, Harris earned his bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in Government and Political Affairs. He also holds a master’s degree in Education from Cabrini College and is currently a Doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Neumann University. Before pursuing a career in public service, he worked as an educator in the Philadelphia Public School System for several years.
Named one of The Philadelphia Tribune Magazine's "10 People Under 40 to Watch in 2011," Representative Harris is sought after to discuss youth leadership and development at universities, churches and on other platforms across the nation. Harris was selected as Talk Magazine’s 101st person on their 2017 Most Influential Person list in PA. He is also a recipient of Odunde365’s 2017 Community Service Award for Positively Impacting Lives. Harris is an informed advocate for the improvement of the educational system. He is passionate about a myriad of issues that affect the District he serves, including equal and quality education; employment and job creation; vocational training and job readiness programs; the rights and care of senior citizens; minority inclusion; bidding reform; and prison system reform. In 2017, Representative Harris was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Magazine. In 2019, Harris, along with the other co-founders of the bipartisan, bicameral Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, was awarded the Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life.
In 2017, Harris welcomed Gov. Wolf to his district to discuss an executive order to “Ban the Box.” The governor announced he would update state employment applications to no longer ask about criminal history. Harris co-sponsored H.R. 296, which urged the Office of Administration to adopt a “Ban the Box” policy relating to certain state agency employment applications.
Harris has been instrumental in the work against gun violence in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Working hand-in-hand with Gov. Wolf, the state is now approaching gun violence as a public health issue. This declaration will help the state drastically expand its response to the gun violence crisis. As part of the 2018-19 budget package, the General Assembly created a $60 million block grant program for school and community safety, making Pennsylvania a national leader in this fight. Harris has also been instrumental in working with fellow legislators to bring funding to Gun Violence Task Force. This program aims to target gun traffickers and get illegal guns off the street in Philadelphia. In the 2019-20 budget, Harris and the Philadelphia Delegation were able to secure a $2.5 million increase in funding for the task force.
Representative Harris also championed a crackdown on nuisance businesses, known as “stop and gos” in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. He sponsored H.B. 1547, which offered provisions to be enforced by the state Liquor Control Board. Language from Harris’ bill made it into the Fiscal Code enacted with the 2017-18 state budget.
His work was essential in creating a partnership between Cheyney University and Starbucks aimed at improving access to higher education for African Americans and promoting the school's legacy as the nation's oldest historically black college.
Representative Harris is currently President of the Board of Directors at Lincoln Day Educational Center, the oldest continuously operating African American Day School in the country. Harris currently serves as a member of the Council of Trustees at his alma mater – Millersville University. He serves as a Member of the Board of the Hardy Williams Education Fund, the Christian Street YMCA, and the Knight Foundation. He is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Nu Sigma Chapter and Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons Cephas Lodge #98.