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​Clemency in PA

The Office of Victim Advocate provides support and accompaniment to victims/survivors who choose to testify or provide comments to the Board of Pardons (BOP) during the clemency process.

Here's what the process looks like, in general:

  1. The victim is notified of the merit review by OVA. They may also be notified by BOP directly, or by the prosecuting district attorney. The victim does not have an opportunity to provide input at this time.
    A merit review determines which cases are worthy of a public hearing.

  2. The merit review occurs. BOP votes yes or no to the public hearing. The offender needs a majority vote (3 out of 5) in order to advance in the process.
    1. No vote – the offender can reapply at a later date or apply for reconsideration
    2. Yes vote – the victim is notified by OVA that a public hearing will occur.
      If the county was unable to provide victim information, more research will be done in an attempt to locate all victims.

  3. The victim is notified of the public hearing by OVA. There are two types of input available to all victims: (1) for the record input which allows for the victim to provide comment in person, or for OVA to read a statement on their behalf, or (2) confidential input which is submitted directly to the BOP by OVA, on behalf of the victim, and not presented in person in any way.

  4. The public hearing occurs. This is when the victim(s) provide their input. In pardon cases, the offender needs a majority (3 out of 5) vote. In commutation cases, the offender needs all 5 votes.
    The public hearing typically occurs 4-5 weeks after the merit review.

    1. No vote – the offender can reapply at a later date or apply for reconsideration
    2. Yes vote – the victim may contact OVA for additional safety planning, supportive services, etc.
    3. Held – BOP could opt to hold the case for further review and not vote
      OVA will continue communicating with the victim and will provide updates as to when the case will be reviewed.

  5. The vote recommendation is sent to the Governor. Clemency is not granted unless and until it is signed by the Governor. There is no time frame for which the Governor must act on the recommendation by BOP.

The clemency process does not require the victim/survivor to participate. Any victim/survivor may choose their level of participation; they may also choose not to participate at all. Some may want to simply be notified of how the offender in their case moves through the justice process, while others may choose to provide testimony.

OVA provides various methods for testimony. Victims/survivors may provide in-person comments to the Board, and an OVA team member will help them prepare. They may give their comments to OVA over the phone or in writing, and then may choose to have them read aloud at the public hearing or submitted confidentially. It's important to note, however, that only testimony submitted to OVA may remain confidential. Should a victim/survivor share their input with the district attorney or other entity, their information is not protected by law.

Regardless of whether a victim/survivor chooses to provide testimony, the process itself is incredibly triggering and exhausting. OVA has dedicated staff committed to those walking through this experience.

Survivors considering media interviews are encouraged to check out this guide.

County Collaboration

In order to provide the highest level of care, collaboration between OVA and county offices is critical. If you are a county advocate and receive notification that an offender has applied for clemency by the Board of Pardons, please reach out to OVA at 800.563.6399 or Dedicated staff members will work hand in hand with you to ensure that victims/survivors receive crisis intervention services, safety planning, and notification of their rights throughout this process.