Sarah (contd)- Activist, Prison Volunteer

We worked with a group in Pittsburgh called Let’s Get Free. We organized a press conference about the commutation process in Harrisburg at the end of August and there was actually an amazing amount of coverage they gave it on the local news. I surprised at how much coverage they actually gave the facts about commutation. But really the press conference rally was to highlight the merit review board where someone has to get three out of five votes in order to even get a hearing. Corbett hasn’t commuted anyone but they’ve only had one hearing since he’s been in office, which they denied.

This woman named Avis Lee, she had put in here application and it takes three years for your case to go before the merit review board, so she put in and it’s her third time applying for commutation, she’s been in for 34 years, it was for a second degree felony murder, she was 18 or 19, she was not a juvenile lifer, but she’s very close to it. There were three people up for commutation, they voted no on all of them. We sat through the hearing and it’s just the most depressing thing because, everyone else is on the phone and someone just says a name and [down the line] they all just go “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO” and they just go through hundreds of names. I hadn’t realized this before that press conference, but one of the things they highlighted was that not a single woman has been commuted since 1990. There are lots of stories of women who have been in for decades and decades on felony murder. Sharon Wiggins, she was convicted as a juvenile. She served 40 some years. She was in her 60’s. She did an amazing amount of things while she was incarcerated. She got a degree, she did all these different programs, she was famous in Muncie for all of the different things she was doing. She had a huge support network and she died 4 months after the No decision. She had applied for commutation 4 times and was denied every time.

Sarah- Activist, Prison Volunteer

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