What is Commutation?

A commuted sentence is a legal sentence which has been adjusted by an official to make the sentence less severe. Classically, commuted sentences come in the form of reduced imprisonment, although commutation can also involve a reduction of fees and other penalties ordered by a judge.

The Campaign for Meaningful Commutation is specifically interested in people sentenced to Life Without Parole in Pennsylvania. Currently, there are over 4,800 people serving life without parole in Pennsylvania. People serving life sentences must apply for commutation as their only means of release since there is no such thing as parole for lifers in PA.


There is currently a commutation process in Pennsylvania, although it is hardly used. Only 6 people have had their life sentences commuted in the last 15 years. Most recently, Tyrone Werts  of Philadelphia was commuted in June of 2011 after 36 years in prison. 

In order to have your sentence commuted the applicant must be approved unanimously by the board of pardons, the governor, and the secretary of state.

The application process takes about three years.  Applicants seeking representation should contact Steven R. Burk, Interagency Liaison, Bureau of Treatment Services, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050 or you can reach him by telephone at 717-728-0380.

What is Meaningful Commutation? 
When we say Restore Meaningful Commutation we mean, there is a process already set up in Pennsylvania called Commutation, only it's not being used. Meaningful Commutation means revitalizing this legal process of sentence reduction. At one time, as many as 12 lifers a year had their sentence commuted. At one time, a life sentence meant 7 years.  It hasn't always been like this. Excessive sentencing with no redemption in sight.