Second Chances at the Board of Pardons

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 May 2024, we’ve seen 57 people sentenced to life without parole and ‘virtual life’ long term sentences recommended by the Board for commutation including 12 of our clients. In the full two decades before 2018 only 15 lifers were recommended. Of the 57 recommended since we began our campaign almost all of them have been released by the Governor with the exception of Bruce Norris who died of COVID-19 while awaiting the Governor's signature and Gail Stallworth whose case was sent back to the Board of Pardons by Governor Shapiro. 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. 

Read about victories in 2022 that brought our clients Rell and James and our good friend Felix home.

Read about the early 2021 victories in our campaign for second chances at the Board of Pardons that brought home our clients Reid Evans, Wyatt Evans and Francisco Mojico. 

Watch our ‘Reopening Hope at the Board of Pardons’ event. 

Listen to our podcast episode about the Board of Pardons. 

Read our report on the April 2022 Board of Pardons hearings.

Francisco Mojica looks into the camera
“In my 29 years of incarceration, I spent my time working to change myself for the better. Eventually, I applied to have the Board of Pardons commute my life without parole sentence. Amistad Law Project stood by my side throughout the process. They reached out to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office to advocate that they support my release and also helped me prepare for my interview at the Board of Pardons. In September of 2020, the Board voted unanimously to support my release from prison. Now I’m looking forward to rejoining the community and having a positive impact mentoring young people and working to help those in need.” - Francisco Mojica
Kris Henderson and Sean Damon of Amistad Law Project stand with Reid and Wyatt Evans
“Forty years ago, two brothers participated in the crime that resulted in my father’s death. When I learned that they were going before the Board of Pardons I wanted to advocate for their release, but I needed support. Amistad Law Project was there for me every step of the way--providing guidance and a shoulder to lean on--as I navigated this difficult process.In September of 2020, I testified for the two brothers at a public hearing because I felt they had long since served their time and deserved a second chance. Thankfully, the Board of Pardons voted to allow them to come home. Never forget that we can have a powerful effect when we speak our truths and act with compassion. I’m thankful to Amistad Law Project in supporting me on this journey”- Nancy Leichtner