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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20150&cosponId=17720
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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: March 10, 2015 04:03 PM
From: Representative Justin J. Simmons and Rep. Brandon P. Neuman
To: All House members
Subject: Minimum Eligibility Requirements for Clemency Applicants
 
In the very near future, both Representative Brandon Neuman and I will be introducing a measure (former HB 1428 of 2013/14) that would institute minimum eligibility requirements for applicants seeking clemency from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons (PA BOP) and the Governor.

Many of you may be surprised to learn that the PA BOP currently has no minimum eligibility requirements for applicants seeking clemency. While it may seem counterintuitive to institute such requirements, it is important to recognize that the Board is forced to operate with a limited number of members (A total of five), staff (A total of four), and resources. According to the PA BOP, it takes at least three (3) years for an application to be merit reviewed by the Board. This three (3) year period begins from the date that an application is filed, not received by the Board, which may further extend processing periods. At this writing, we have been informed that there is a total backlog of more than 1,000 applications filed and pending merit review by the Board. As such, the need to streamline this process and make it more efficient for both the PA BOP and prospective clemency applicants is clearly evident.

Specifically, what our measure proposes to do is to institute a five-year waiting period following one’s conviction (excluding summary convictions for traffic related offenses) before one would be eligible to submit an application for a pardon with the PA Board of Pardons (excluding persons sentenced to death). Additionally, this five-year waiting period would be applicable to imprisoned persons who wish to submit an application for commutation with the Board.

This we believe would provide an adequate period of time for would-be applicants to feasibly establish patterns of behavior that are indicative of genuine rehabilitation. It would also serve to further reduce the application backlog presently experienced by the Board, thus resulting in a more reasonable period in between when an application is first received by the PA BOP and then subsequently merit reviewed.

At this writing, more than three dozen states have instituted some form of minimum eligibility requirements for clemency applicants. Additionally, even the Office of the Pardon Attorney, better known as the Presidential Pardon Office, has established minimum eligibility requirements for clemency applicants (five-years). As such, what we are proposing to do here is not a new and novel concept. Instead, it is our belief that working towards the goal of reducing the application backlog of the PA BOP and streamlining the application process itself will ultimately benefit the members of our society (formerly convicted misdemeanants and felons) whose only form of legal recourse to obtain a “second chance” at redemption is through Pennsylvania’s executive pardon process.

IT SHOULD ALSO BE NOTED THAT THIS MEASURE HAS RECEIVED THE FULL SUPPORT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PARDONS.

Therefore, both Representative Neuman and I strongly encourage members from both sides of the aisle to please join us in advancing this crucially important bipartisan initiative.

Previous co-sponsors of this measure are as follows:

V. BROWN, NEILSON, GODSHALL , CLAY, BISHOP , SWANGER , SCHREIBER, BROWNLEE, WATERS , KIRKLAND , THOMAS , PARKER , KIM, MATZIE, WATSON , TOOHIL, M. DALEY, McGEEHAN , DAVIDSON, YOUNGBLOOD , READSHAW , CALTAGIRONE , CARROLL , SACCONE, GAINEY, HARKINS , STERN , SIMS and KAUFFMAN

For more information concerning this legislation, you are asked to please contact Lori Nissly at (717)783-1673 or lnissly@pahousegop.com or Holly Stimely at (717)783-4834 or hstimely@pahouse.net.

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Introduced as HB877