Filing Of An Application:
When an application is received at the Board of Pardons office and is found to be complete and accurate, it is considered "filed." A letter will be sent to confirm the filing of the application. If incomplete, it will not be considered filed until all requirements have been fulfilled.
Filing an application to commute a Death sentence to Life imprisonment entails special procedures. The presentation may last thirty minutes, and every filed capital application is granted a public hearing. A capital applicant must submit every pertinent piece of material at least ten days prior to the date of hearing.
After an application has been filed, a copy of the application is sent to the following interested parties:
Board of Probation and Parole - Staff from the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole conduct investigations for the Board of Pardons. They will report all criminal history and driving violations found. They will also conduct a telephone interview or an in-person interview in your home to provide our Board with your present personal status. You can view the topics that will be discussed during your present status interview here.
Before submitting your application, please be sure that you are willing to make yourself available to the parole staff and are willing to provide the above requested information. The Board has determined the interview and verification of the information provided as requirements and you must adhere to them. Failure to make yourself available to parole staff either by telephone or the in-person interview and/or to provide the requested information will result in your application being administratively withdrawn.
If you do not reside in Pennsylvania, parole staff's standard procedure is to send you a worksheet to complete followed up by a telephone interview to confirm the information contained in the worksheet. You should expect a delay from the time your application is filed until you are interviewed. This will ensure that the information regarding your present personal status is current and accurate when it is reviewed by the Board.
Department of Corrections - This agency is responsible for preparing a report for incarcerated individuals only.
District Attorney/President Judge - The District Attorney and President Judge in the county where the crime(s) occurred are given a chance to provide an opinion on the merits of every application. In cases involving more than one jurisdiction, a copy of the application will also go to the appropriate District Attorney and President Judge in that county.
Once all of the necessary reports have been received, the Board Secretary and staff will send to each Board Member in advance an applicant’s file to be reviewed for a hearing. The Board will grant a hearing if two (2) of the five Board members approve. Hearings for lifers or prisoners serving time for crimes of violence may only be granted upon approval of three (3) Board members. Attempted crimes of violence are included in this and offenses committed while in visible possession of a firearm, for which sentencing was imposed, will also require a three (3) member vote. If the required number of votes are not obtained, the process has ended and the applicant will not receive a pardon/commutation.
If a hearing is granted, the following individuals/agencies will be notified of the time and place of the hearing:
Board of Probation and Parole
Department of Corrections (If incarcerated)
District Attorney, President Judge
Victim(s) or Victim(s) Next of Kin
Newspaper in the county where an applicant committed the crime(s) for which he/she is seeking clemency. At least one week prior to the public hearing, notice must be published stating the applicant’s name, the crimes(s) with respect to which the applicant has applied for clemency, clemency type, the institution, if any, in which the applicant is confined and the time and place of the hearing at which the application will be heard. Newspaper publication is required for every application to be heard by the Board.
A calendar is prepared, listing each application to be heard at the specified public session. It is distributed to all interested parties in advance of the public session.
Hearings used to be held in the Supreme Court Courtroom in Harrisburg; however, since COVID, all sessions have been held virtually. The Board meets on a regular basis, as determined by the Board. On the scheduled day, the Board convenes at 9:00 A.M. for morning sessions or 1:00 P.M. for afternoon sessions. The Board's secretary will call the session to order and the Board's chairman will present opening remarks. Following the opening remarks, the first case, as listed on the calendar, is called to present their case. No more than fifteen minutes is allowed for each applicant's presentation. Each case is called in consecutive order with each informal presentation adhering to the following format:
Following the public hearing session, the Board meets in Executive Session. The Board reconvenes to vote in public. If a majority of the Board vote in favor of an application, the Board recommends favorable action to the Governor. If less than a majority of the Board vote in favor, the result is a denial by the Board and the application is not forwarded to the Governor. Life or Death sentence cases require a unanimous vote by the Board to be recommended to the Governor. The Governor, at his discretion, may approve or disapprove any favorable recommendation submitted by the Board. When the Secretary of the Board has received the Governor's action, all interested parties will be notified of the decision.
Post Result Actions:
Reconsideration - A request for reconsideration of any decision may be made to the Board. The applicant must show a change in circumstances since the application was filed, or other compelling reasons, sufficient to justify reconsideration. Dissatisfaction with the Board's decision is not grounds to request reconsideration.
June 3, 2019, a formal request for reconsideration must be accompanied by a
Reconsideration Request Form, which is prescribed by the Pennsylvania Board of
Pardons (BOP). From the effective date and anytime thereafter, any
request that does not include a Reconsideration Request Form will be
automatically rejected by the BOP.
Download Reconsideration Request Form