Merit Review Sessions are an important part of the process by which people in Pennsylvania can apply for a pardon. A Merit Review Session is a private meeting of the PA Board of Pardons, at which time Board members vote on their review of an application in private to determine if a public hearing will be offered. Based on the paper application, and the investigation of the Board, a vote is taken. If at least two members vote in favor of the application, the candidate is invited to a Public Hearing to answer questions of the Board.
At the public hearing the Board will hear from the applicant and any witnesses who may be called to testify on the applicant’s behalf. After the public hearing, the Board will decide whether to recommend a pardon applicant to the Governor. If three or more Board members vote in favor of the application, it is forwarded to the Governor with a recommendation to grant the pardon.
In this article, we’ll give an overview of what happens at a Merit Review Session, as well as some recent updates and answers to common questions.
What Is a Merit Hearing?
Before we get into what happens at a Merit Hearing, it’s important to understand why these hearings are necessary. To grant a pardon, the PA Board of Pardons must find that the applicant has demonstrated “exemplary behavior” and been fully rehabilitated from their past criminal actions.
A Merit Review Session is one way the Board can assess whether or not an applicant meets these criteria. During a Merit Review Session, the Board determines if they think there is enough ‘merit’ to the application to invite the applicant to a Public Hearing where the Board hears from the applicant and any witnesses who may speak on their behalf. If two of the five Board members support the application, a Public Hearing will be scheduled.
After the Public Hearing, the Board deliberates as a group to determine whether or not they believe a pardon should be recommended.
Recent PA Merit Review Session
On October 13th, the Governor’s Board of Pardons held a Merit Review meeting to consider 96 cases of incarcerated individuals. These people hoped to receive a pardon or a commutation, allowing them to leave prison early. The Board had already investigated and reviewed these cases before the meeting. During the meeting, they discussed the merits of each case and voted on whether or not to recommend clemency.
Also, it’s been just over a month since the Board of Pardons announced that people with certain marijuana possession cases could apply for a pardon online, and the response has been overwhelming. In September alone, nearly 3,600 people filed applications. The Board is now tasked with reviewing all of these cases and deciding whether or not to vote for them.
The Pardons Board recently announced that they would take 3,600 cases under advisement. This is because the window for online applications has recently closed, and the staff needs time to investigate each case. The Board has created dates in December when they will review many cases.
While this may cause some delays, the Board must take the time to review each case appropriately. Ultimately, this will ensure that they make the right decisions. Hopefully, they will tak a votes before the end of 2022.
Key Things To Look Out for in the Next Public Hearing
Getting a pardon in PA from the Board of Pardons takes work. Applicants must demonstrate exemplary behavior and have been fully rehabilitated from their past criminal actions. This is a high bar, and many applicants need help navigating the process.
That’s where companies like Record Eraser come in. We can also assist in the entire pardon process, from researching records and filing applications to representing clients at Merit Reviews or public presentations, which is primarily preparing them for the questions they may face.
Find Out if You Qualify for Pardon or Expungement in PA
If you’re interested in learning more about Merit Review Sessions or applying for a pardon or expungement, contact Record Eraser today. We can help you determine if you qualify and guide you through the process. You could be one step closer to a fresh start and a second chance at life! Contact Record Eraser today to learn how they can help you through the PA pardon process, and Keep checking back for more Board of Pardons news.