FAMM urges Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to have greater transparency in clemency process

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FAMM  urges Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to have greater transparency in clemency process

HARRISBURG – FAMM Pennsylvania State Policy Director Maria Goellner sent a letter today to Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Boards of Pardons (BOP) in response to the absence of reasoning given for denied clemency applications last week. FAMM urged the BOP to create a more effective and transparent process by notifying applicants of the common criteria the Board considers, and which criteria were the basis for the BOP’s decision.

“Clemency is the sole way for people serving long and life without parole sentences to leave prison in Pennsylvania — no matter the efforts they make to rehabilitate themselves, time served, or support they receive,” said Goellner. “The latest group of denials was especially surprising based on the strength of the applications and support from almost everyone that weighed in, but that frustration was compounded by the nonexistent feedback on the reasons they were rejected. We urge the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to begin using a form that provides those reasons going forward. People need to know where they need to do some work and improve, so they can make their next application better.”

Back in March, FAMM sent a letter to Governor Wolf, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, and Board of Pardons Secretary K. Celeste Trusty with twelve recommendations and improvements to Pennsylvania’s clemency process. Creating and using a form to explain reasons for clemency decisions was one of those recommendations.

A blank version of the criteria form could be given to candidates at the beginning of the application process, so there is clarity about the criteria that will be utilized. Then individual BOP members or the Secretary could fill out the sheet after their assessment is done. For rejected applicants, that feedback could help ensure those incarcerated individuals better understand what they could do to improve their chance at commutation in the future.  For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies at the state and federal levels and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.


FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safely reduce incarceration, save taxpayer dollars, and keep families together. Founded in 1991, FAMM has secured bold sentencing and prison reform across the country while elevating the voices of directly impacted individuals and families. | | @FAMMFoundation

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