Session: 2023-2024

ACLU-PA Position: Supports

Currently, someone sentenced to life without parole or the death penalty needs a unanimous vote by the Board of Pardons just to be considered for a pardon or commutation by the governor.

HB 1410 (PN 1578) is a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would replace the unanimous vote requirement with a majority (three out of five) vote requirement to be considered for a pardon or commutation. This majority requirement was the law before the late 1990’s and was changed during the failed "tough on crime" policies of that era. It should be the law again today.

Pennsylvania keeps thousands of people in prison for decades with no chance of release—disproportionately people of color—at a far higher rate than the national average. This is due, in part, to the requirement that for lifers, the five-member Board of Pardons must vote unanimously to send their clemency application to the governor. This has created a severe backlog in Pennsylvania's clemency process, as it is the only release mechanism for people serving the longest sentences. Locking people up for decades, even after they have rehabilitated themselves and pose little risk to others, neither improves public safety nor serves the interest of justice.

By restoring the majority vote requirement, HB 1410 would allow many more worthy applicants to be considered for clemency.

Check the bill's progress here.


Representative Joanna McClinton



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