Lt. Governor John Fetterman says the goal of the board is to give second chances to individuals who deserve it, and to help those who’ve been wrongfully convicted.
“It hasn’t always been a priority to offer second chances to people who’ve been written off and thrown away by society,” said Fetterman. “However, helping disenfranchised people turn their lives around is not just a fiscally sound thing to do. Mercy is at the core of so many religions because it also happens to be the right thing to do,” he added.
According to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the board oversees two forms of clemency: pardons for people who are not incarcerated and sentence commutations, meaning sentence reductions for people who are in prison and believe they are reformed and have been over-sentenced.
The board says the modernization project will provide much-needed transparency and clarity for people seeking clemency.
It will essentially automate the clemency process and make it easier to apply for pardons or request a reduction in prison sentence.
“By reducing staff time spent responding to status requests and locating missing documents, and drastically reducing our reliance on paper applications, we will be able to shift our focus and resources more toward the goal of our agency, which is to help people,” said Board of Pardons Secretary Celeste Trusty.
Being able to access your application via smartphone or computer, and checking your status at anytime are just some of the key components.
By creating a secure log-in profile to access your application and status, the board hopes to streamline the process and eliminate unnecessary letters, phone calls, and other means of communication that sometimes get lost throughout that process.
At the unveiling of the project, clemency recipients and advocates shared their stories. Some even spent decades behind bars for crimes they did not even commit.
“Whether you were denied a seat on your city council that you won through a democratic election, or you were wrongfully imprisoned for three to four decades, this is a powerful process that deserves and should be more accessible to Pennsylvanians,” said Fetterman. “We’ve seen numerous instances where people just want to get back to their lives, but because of some minor weed infraction that’s still on their record from 20 years ago, they’re told they can’t chaperone their kids on a field trip,” he added.
The Office of The Lieutenant Governor says the three-year project is the system’s first major update since the emergence of computers.
Since taking office, Governor Wolf has pardoned over 1,900 individuals.