In order for a person incarcerated in Pennsylvania to receive a pardon, all five members of the state Board of Pardons have to agree to recommend their case to the governor. A unanimous vote.
Lawmakers are looking to change that.
A bill to make the vote a simple majority of the board has made it out of committee and will next move to the House floor.
A simple majority was in place before the sentencing reforms of the 1990’s. Which meant between 1971 and 1994, Pennsylvania governors commuted the sentences of 285 people. After the law changed, that number plummeted 90%. There were only 50 pardons granted between 1995-2015. Were less people worthy of being pardoned? Highly unlikely.
So far, Democrats support making the change.
But it’s got a long way to go because this move requires changing the state’s constitution. Both the House and the Senate have to pass it, and then the voters decide with a referendum.
So that’s the politics of it.
Here’s the humanity.
People who have done their time and have been rehabilitated deserve every opportunity to live a better life. Holding them back due to an archaic “tough on crime” stance doesn’t make sense.
Lt. Governor Austin Davis, who is the chair of the board of pardons, said it best. In his words: “Pennsylvania should be a place for second chances, and we should have a system that represents that vision.”
And that, my friends, is a fact.
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