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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=23525
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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: April 5, 2017 04:20 PM
From: Representative Justin J. Simmons and Rep. Brandon P. Neuman
To: All House members
Subject: Minimum Eligibility Requirements for the Board of Pardons
 
In the very near future, both Representative Brandon Neuman and I will be introducing a measure 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 tiered set of minimum eligibility requirements for those seeking to file an application for clemency with the PA Board of Pardons (excluding persons sentenced to death). They are as follows:
  • Ten (10) years from the date of the applicant’s most recent conviction or release from confinement;
  • Twenty-five (25) years from the date of conviction for any applicant serving a life sentence;
  • Incarcerated applicants would be prohibited from submitting an application within three (3) years of their minimum or maximum sentence; and
  • No application will be accepted unless the applicant demonstrates that they have set up a payment plan and have been working towards paying down their fines, court costs, and restitution by actively making payments for at least twelve (12) consecutive months prior to the submission of an application.
We believe that the above provides 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. 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 (reentrants) whose only form of legal recourse to obtain a “second chance” at redemption is through Pennsylvania’s executive pardon process.

IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THIS MEASURE HAS BEEN REVIEWED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PARDONS AND THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S OFFICE.

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.

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 HB1453