Applicable Form of Executive Clemency: Commutation of Sentence

Eligibility: All inmates are eligible to apply at any time. However, it is unlikely a commutation will be granted to inmates who have other forms of judicial or administrative remedies available to them.

Application Process: The application is obtained by contacting:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Governor's Council
State House, Room 184
Boston, MA 02133
Tel: (617) 725-4015

The application can also be downloaded by clicking here

Return completed application form and any relevant, accompanying documents to:

Governor's Council
State House, Room 184
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-725-4015, 4016

To guide the Advisory Board of Pardons in reviewing commutation petitions and in making its recommendation to the Governor, the Governor has established the following guidelines:

The petitioner bears the responsibility of demonstrating, by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • The petitioner has within their capacity, made exceptional strides in self-development and self-improvement and would be a law-abiding citizen; or
  • The petitioner is suffering from a critical illness or has severe and chronic disability, which would be mitigated by release from prison; or
  • The petitioner's further incarceration would constitute gross unfairness because of basic equities involved, including:
  • The severity of the sentence received in relation to the sentences received by co-defendants.
  • The extent of the petitioner's participation in the offense.
  • A history of abuse suffered by the petitioner at the hands of the victim that significantly contributed to or brought about the offense.

The Governor will seldom grant commutation if:

  • There is a viable administrative or judicial remedy available.
  • The petitioner is convicted but not yet sentenced.
  • The commutation is being sought for a lengthy sentence that is not yet being served.
  • The petitioner has not yet progressed from a 24-hour maximum-security confinement status.
  • The petitioner is on probation or parole.
  • The Advisory Board advises against the granting such relief.

The Governor will consider petitions for commutation relief which meet these guidelines and have the unanimous recommendation of the Advisory Board. If a petition receives a majority, but not unanimous, recommendation from the Board, the Governor may act on it or may return it to the Advisory Board for further action. If the Governor disagrees with the Board's recommendation to grant commutation, he may deny commutation, but will set forth, where appropriate, the actions the petitioner should take to maximize the potential for favorable consideration in the future.

When the Advisory Board recommends that the Governor deny a request for commutation and the Governor does not disapprove or does not take action within 120 days of the submission of the recommendation to the governor, it shall be presumed that the Governor concurs with the Board and the petition for commutation is denied. In this case, the Advisory Board will notify the petitioner.

In addition to the notice requirements set forth in G.L. Chapter 127, Section 154, prior to any public hearing by the Advisory Board on the petition:

  • The Advisory Board will notify the Secretary of Public Safety and the appropriate District Attorney of the pending petition and the scheduling of a commutation hearing.
  • The Advisory Board shall make every reasonable attempt to notify the victims of the petitioner, the victim's immediate family, and the victim's survivors. The notification will be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the victim, the victim's immediate family, and the victim's survivors. If this attempt fails, the Board members will try to contact concerned parties personally. In this notification, the Board will solicit comments about the petition and invite concerned parties to appear at the petitioner's hearing.

The report and recommendation of the Advisory Board to the Governor must include the following:

  • A summary of the evidence presented at a public hearing, including the support the petitioner received in the institution and in the community, and the nature and extent of opposition to the petition, and the names and addresses of those in support and opposition.
  • An institutional progress report showing responsible use of available rehabilitative programs.
  • Where applicable, a description of realistic community correctional and parole programs available to continue the petitioner's rehabilitation.
  • Where applicable, a plan for reintegrating the petitioner into normal community life. The Governor approves of the Advisory Board's practice of generally recommending commutation of a sentence to parole eligibility at a future date rather than a present date in order to make petitioners eligible for education, training and employment programs, pursuant to G.L. Chapter 127, Sections 48 through 73, before they are eligible for parole release.
  • A duplicate of the registration with the Secretary of State filed by counsel or other representative pursuant to G.L. Chapter 127, Section 167.
  • The recommendation and vote of the Advisory Board.

Favorable recommendations shall address the conditions set forth above. Unfavorable recommendations shall set forth, where appropriate, those actions the petitioner should take to maximize the potential for favorable consideration in the future.

The Governor may, at any time before making a final determination, return a petition to the Advisory Board for further action or to request further information.

These guidelines are advisory only. They create no enforceable rights in the petitioner, nor do they restrict the power of the Governor.

Any questions about executive clemency can be addressed to:

Julie Ching Pease
Executive Clemency Coordinator
Executive Clemency Unit
12 Mercer Road
Natick, MA 01760
phone: 508-650-4542

Every effort has been made to make this information accurate and up-to-date. Errors are inevitable and changes occur frequently. We would appreciate learning of any errors or inaccuracies regarding any information on this Webpage as soon as possible. Please write to

Last Updated: 06/23/14