Pennsylvania’s digitization of pardon applications is the first update to the paper-based process “since the advent of computers,” officials said.
Pennsylvania is making it easier for people to ask for pardons or request a reduction in their prison sentences. The Board of Pardon’s modernization project will streamline the state’s pardon and clemency application process by moving it from a paper-based process to an electronic one.
The project will allow pardon and clemency applications to be submitted online, via a mobile app or on paper. The custom-built software solution will increase automation and allow staff to route applications digitally through each stage of the application review process. It also includes development of the Board of Pardon’s first mobile app, which will allow applicants to upload supporting documents and track the status of their application, City and State Pennsylvania reported. Pennsylvanians will be able to access the application system through a smartphone, tablet or computer.
The three-year project is the first major update “since the advent of computers,” officials said in the April 4 announcement.
The automated system is expected to improve efficiency, reduce errors and redundancies and increase transparency, officials said. Applicants will also be able to track their progress online.
“By reducing staff time spent responding to status requests and locating missing documents, and drastically reducing our reliance on paper applications, we will be able to shift our focus and resources more toward the goal of our agency, which is to help people,” Board of Pardons Secretary Celeste Trusty said.
“We’ve seen numerous instances where people just want to get back to their lives, but because of some minor weed infraction that’s still on their record from 20 years ago, they’re told they can’t chaperone their kids on a field trip,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who chairs the Board of Pardons and who has made criminal justice reform a key priority of his tenure. Fetterman, a Democrat, is also running for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat.
Streamlining the clemency process will give more deserving people easier access, Fetterman added. The resulting efficiencies will also allow staff to process applications faster, reducing backlogs.
The technology work is being completed by developers in the Office of Administration, working closely with staff from the Board of Pardons and the Office of Lieutenant Governor, according to the announcement. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.