December 20, 2018, Laura Benshoff - WHYY
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has commuted the sentences of three inmates who would otherwise die in prison, bringing the total number granted during his administration up to five.
Benny Ortega, Tina Brosius, and Raymond Jordan had each served decades in state prison for offenses ranging from drug trafficking to first-degree murder. Under Wolf, they applied for clemency, riding a wave of hope that his administration would revive a rehabilitative process that had fallen out of favor.
Brosius is the first woman who will be freed through commutation since 1990.
Amid these victories, criminal justice reform advocates say the commutation process remains opaque and disheartening, and many more worthy candidates are not being selected out of political concerns.
Wolf granted Ortega a commutation on Tuesday, calling his 125-to-292-year sentence for selling cocaine and marijuana “egregious and inhumane.” Ortega is now eligible for parole and will be placed on the Pennsylvania Parole Board’s interview list.
On Thursday, the governor granted clemency to Tina Brosius, 43, who was convicted of first-degree murder when in 1994 at the age of 18 she allowed her newborn baby to drown in the portable toilet where she’d just given birth in Dauphin County. Brosius already had two daughters at the time, who have advocated continually for her release.
Jordan, 58, stabbed a man while high on cocaine in Philadelphia in 1985. He has had no misconduct write-ups in prison since 1998, according to those familiar with his application.
Brosius and Jordan will be released to a community corrections center for year, before serving out the rest of their sentences on parole, according to Wolf’s spokesman J.J. Abbott.