Thursday, August 7, 2008
The Scranton Times Tribune notes a change to the state Constitution "makes it harder for defendants to get their sentence commuted." The 1997 amendment requires a unanimous vote from the state Board of Pardons in order for a commutation recommendation to be forwarded to the governor. Before the amendment, a majority vote was enough. The Pennsylvania Prison Society and other prisoner-rights groups contend (in a lawsuit) that the amendment should not be applied to inmates sentenced before 1997. In March 2006, a U.S. District Judge agreed that the amendment “can create a significant risk of increasing an inmate’s punishment” and that unanimous recommendations make successful application a “more difficult task” for inmates. The decision is now on appeal. See story here.