Second Looks, Second Chances

Directed by Law Professor Regina Austin and shot and edited by Adam Brody, both of the Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law, “Second Looks, Second Chances: Commutation by the Numbers” advocates for the expanded use of the governor’s commutation power to increase parole eligibility for those serving life without the possibility of parole in Pennsylvania. The documentary contains interviews with men who had their life sentences commuted and are now serving life-time parole, as well as with a former Superintendent of SCI Graterford, a member of the Penn Nursing School faculty who has worked with lifers on their commutation petitions, and a Penn Political Science Professor who is an expert on mass incarceration and criminal justice reforms.

The video explores the justifications for increased commutations. It maintains that commutations, particularly for long-serving, older rehabilitated lifers, would free up tax dollars that might be better spent on more important programs than corrections, programs such as primary education and drug rehabilitation. It also examines the elements of the existing state commutation system which reduce the risk of executive action. The men interviewed were previously lifers in the PDOC system and are examples of the exceedingly low recidivism rates for commuted inmates who are 50 years of age or older.