HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania Board of Pardons Chairman Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced recently that pardons and commutations public hearings will be held September 1-4, with testimony occurring virtually for the first time in the board’s history.
In April, Fetterman announced the necessary postponement of quarterly public hearings that had been scheduled to be held in the Capitol in the first week of June. The Capitol was closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Conducting these hearings virtually is a last resort, because we wanted applicants to be able to attend in person and to make the best possible case for themselves,” Fetterman said. “It’s apparent that, in the interest of safety, we just can’t have people traveling from all across the state to attend the hearings, so we are adapting.”
The hearings will be held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 1-4, and will be publicly accessible via a live streaming link. The link will be posted on the Board of Pardons website by September 1.
The hearings include 239 applications for pardons, including 24 expedited applications for minor marijuana-related offenses, representing just the second batch of applications to be heard through the new program that speeds up the pardons process. In June, the Board of Pardons sent its first batch of 26 marijuana-related pardons to the governor and recommended approval.
September’s hearings also include 22 applications for commutations of prison sentences, 21 of which are applications for commutation of life sentences without the chance of parole and one of which requests commutation of a minimum sentence. These include six applicants whose applications are being heard again for reconsideration after they were denied by the Board at its December 20, 2019 meeting.
Though working remotely, board members and staff continue to progress through a years-long case backlog. Several changes that Fetterman instituted during his first year in office have streamlined the process and are allowing staff to process cases more quickly.
The board consists of the Lieutenant Governor as chair, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and three governor-appointed positions: a psychiatrist, a victims’ representative, and a corrections expert.
Pardon applications are available at www.bop.pa.gov.
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