Clemency applications filed with the Board of Pardons generally fall into one of two categories:
1. Pardon Applications
2. 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.
A pardon relieves an individual of the consequences, generally in the nature of legal disabilities, resulting from conviction for a crime. Approximately 85 percent of the clemency applications the Board receives are for pardons, the balance for commutation of sentences. A pardon constitutes total forgiveness by the state, makes the crime as if it never happened and allows a job applicant to deny he was ever convicted of the crime without worry of any sanction. It is recommended though, that such a denial be explained to be based on the existence of a pardon from the Governor.
A commutation is for the reduction of a prison or parole sentence currently being served by an applicant. Approximately 15 percent of the clemency applications the Board receives are for commutation of sentences. Inmates serving life sentences must apply for commutation of their life sentence as their only means of release since there is no such thing as parole for lifers in Pennsylvania. Inmates serving indeterminate sentences also apply for commutation of their minimum and/or maximum sentence, but the Board generally finds parole to be the more appropriate avenue for their release.
Applicants seeking representation should contact:
John Johnson, Pardons Case Specialist
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050