HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The process for inmates and ex-convicts in Pennsylvania to apply for clemency should go fully online by the end of the year, an effort to improve access to an emerging cornerstone of the nation’s criminal justice movement and to reduce the wait by years, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said Monday.
Fetterman said at a Capitol news conference that his goal is for the state Board of Pardons to use the online system to turn around an application for a pardon or commutation in a year or less.
The process often takes several years currently under what Fetterman calls an ineffective and paper-based system.
“It hasn’t always been a priority to offer second chances to people who’ve been written off and thrown away by society,” Fetterman said. “However, helping disenfranchised people turn their lives around is not just a fiscally sound thing to do. Mercy is at the core of so many religions because it also happens to be the right thing to do.”
April is recognized nationally as Second Chance Month.
Fetterman as lieutenant governor chairs the five-member Board of Pardons, and has worked to transform the tiny agency into a bigger tool in a criminal justice reform movement working to undo decades-old laws and systems that inflated prison populations, disproportionately with racial minorities.
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The pardons system once required someone seeking an application to mail in a check or money order, wait to receive the application by mail and then to mail it back in, filled out, with documents from their criminal case — and another payment.
After taking office in 2019, Fetterman got rid of the fees and applications can now be downloaded from online.