The Campaign to Restore Meaningful Commutation is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based group that is pursuing criminal justice reforms for people serving life sentences. It brings attention to a number of problems with the commutation process that should be addressed by the current legislature. The time is right to be pushing this reform with PA Governor Wolfe in office who has signed two commutations since he has been elected just a year and a half ago. LT. Governor Mike Stack spoke in Pittsburgh recently saying things like “We are supposed to live in the land of 2nd chances”. While the idea of a second chances seems like common sense for many who are fighting mass incarceration, it feels radical coming from the chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons speaking specifically about people convicted of violent charges.
In the 1970s approximately 35 people a year were given a second chance through commutation. That’s 380 commuted lifers from 1967-1990, but for the last 25 years, only 7 men and no women or trans people serving life have been released. The dramatic decrease in the use of commutation as a result of the “tough on crime” political climate has contributed to mass incarceration and has left many innocent and reformed people serving excessive sentences with no mercy.
Working in coalition with a number of groups across Pennsylvania made up of concerned citizens, current and formerly incarcerated people, and interfaith human rights advocates, the Campaign has drafted a 12- point platform to restore Pennsylvania’s commutation process. It has prioritized three changes that it thinks could have a watershed effect on the meaningful restoration of this process.
The Campaign is asking officials to consider all aspects of the 12-point platform and draft legislation including these changes:
– Return the Board of Pardons vote requirement for a recommendation of commutation for a lifer to 3 out of 5 votes, rather than the unanimous vote requirement.
– Amend the commutation regulations of the Board of Pardons to grant an automatic approval for a public hearing after an applying lifer has served 15 years.
– Require that the Board of Pardons provide a written reason for denial of a commutation application for people serving life sentences.
And if you’re in Pennsylvania or close by, please consider joining us on June 23rd, as we rally and meet with several state offices willing to collaborate with us. Plan for an all-day adventure of speaking truth to power and building allies at our state capital.
Sign up to attend the Harrisburg Lobby Day here.
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