HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman announced the Board of Pardons staff continues to progress through a backlog of applications for pardons and commutation while working from home, but the coronavirus pandemic is causing some in-person hearings to be rescheduled.

While May’s remote merit review of pending cases will continue as planned, the public hearings scheduled to be held in the Capitol during the first week of June must be postponed. The Capitol Complex remains closed to the public indefinitely due to the pandemic, and some applicants are legally required to appear before the board at the public hearing.

The board must also consider travel plans for applicants, as some parts of the state might still be closed in June.

The Board of Pardons cannot carry out the required in-person interviews with inmates who have applied for commutation, as all prisons are closed to visitors indefinitely to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Not only are we legally fettered by attendance requirements for some applicants, it would be grossly unfair to inmates who have applied for commutation to deny them their in-person prison visits and interviews,” Fetterman said. “I share the frustration of those working to free inmates who have been incarcerated for too long, but it’s in everyone’s best interest for our work to be conducted safely and in a manner that gives applicants the full chance that they deserve to have their requests heard. This was a difficult but ultimately unavoidable decision.” 

The hearings are expected to be rescheduled for a date to be set within 30 days of the reopening of the Capitol Complex, dependent on travel restrictions across the state and applicants’ ability to travel to the hearings, Fetterman said.

The Lieutenant Governor assured inmates and pardon applicants that work on cases continues behind the scenes. Though working remotely, board members and staff continue progress through a years-long case backlog. Several changes that Fetterman instituted during his first year in office have streamlined the process and are allowing staff to process cases more quickly.