Lt. Gov: Pathways to Pardons means hope

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette State Lt. Gov. Mike Stack talks with Lycoming College students, clockwise from bottom left Amanda Jerman, freshman; Darby Willingham, junior; Ally Dugan, junior; and Breona Buck, junior, during Pathway to Pardons at the college Thursday night.

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack appeared at Lycoming College Thursday night to deliver a message of hope.

As chairman of the state Board of Pardons, he made it clear that people deserve a second chance in life.

“Any offense in Pennsylvania is pardonable,” he said. “That’s what Pathways to Pardons does.”

The program gives people convicted of a crime the chance to apply for clemency.

Clemency can be in the form of a pardon which relieves an individual of the consequences resulting from a conviction or a commutation reducing a prison or parole sentence.

Many people imprisoned for crimes deserve another chance, he said.

“The past culture was you won’t get a pardon,” he said.

He dismissed the notion that second

chances are a means of being soft on crime.

“It’s being strong on justice,” he said.

Pennsylvania Board of Pardons Secretary Steve Burk said Pathways to Pardons is making a difference.

A pardon for an individual convicted of a crime can open up possibilities for employment, holding public office, owning and carrying a firearm, traveling overseas and serving in the military.

Burk said the program is reaching out to more people.

Ross Miller, chief of Assessment and Classification, state Department of Corrections, said people serving jail sentences need hope.

More than 47,000 people are serving state prison terms, including some 5,400 facing life sentences.

A commutation can be recommended to the governor for anything from minimum sentences to those facing death penalties.

Applications for commutations have increased in the past seven years.

“One of our goals in Lycoming County government is to keep costs down,” Lycoming County Commissioner Jack McKernan said. “This sounds logical. Why not give then a second chance.”

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said he’s a big believer in learning from the past.

“We obviously need people to change their hearts,” he said.

Commissioner Tony Mussare agreed.

“A second change is what it’s all about,” he said.

Jason Snyder, special assistant to the secretary of the state Department of Human Services, addressed alcohol and drug addiction with respect to pardons.

He said many lose hope and suffer relapses without meaningful employment, safe housing and various support networks.