In Pennsylvania, the Board of Pardons should be a pathway home for incarcerated people who have turned around their lives. Before the rise of mass incarceration, dozens of people would have their sentences commuted by the Board of Pardons every year. In current times, the process has been largely shut down, but we are steadily pushing to successfully reopen the door at the Board of Pardons.
We campaign to have the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons recommend more people for commutation. We assist incarcerated people applying for commutation and help them navigate the process. We advocate with Prosecutors’ offices and support sympathetic victims’ family members when they want to speak out in support.
From the time we began our campaign in 2018 to October 2023, we’ve seen 57 people sentenced to life without parole and ‘virtual life’ long term sentences recommended by the Board for commutation including 13 of our clients. In the full two decades before 2018 only 15 lifers were recommended. Of the 52 recommended since we began our campaign almost all of them have been released by the Governor. We’re moving the needle and we’ve been able to provide crucial support in a number of cases that directly led to the applicants getting the approval of the Board.