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Clemency applications filed with the Board of Pardons generally fall into one of two categories: pardon applications or commutation applications. The number of both types of clemency applications have steadily increased in recent years. In Pennsylvania, people generally apply for clemency because they have no other recourse under state law. 

The Board of Pardons exists as a separate entity that has the authority to make recommendations to the Governor for pardons, reprieves, commutations of sentence, and executive clemency. The Governor is prohibited from bypassing normal procedure and granting clemency on the basis of special circumstances. He is authorized to grant clemency only upon a favorable recommendation by the Board of Pardons. The Governor is not bound to accept the recommendation of the Board of Pardons, but exercises an independent judgment in all cases.