The podcast’s guest this week is Mark Singel, former lieutenant governor and acting governor of Pennsylvania from 1987-1995. His recent article for America is called “I pardoned a convict who killed again. Here’s why I still believe in mercy.”
Singel discusses his decision to commute the sentence of Reginald McFadden in 1992, when he was chairman of the State Board of Pardons. After McFadden was freed, he committed another murder and a rape. Singel’s political opponents were able to “take that incident and turn it into a potent political weapon,” he says. “I had, in fact, voted and made a judgement call to give this individual a second chance,” Singel admits, “and he betrayed that public trust.”
Politicians and the general public “became a little less compassionate, a little less merciful,” Singel explains, after this incident. Reflecting on this in light of today’s politics, Singel is concerned about the policies and statements that are not “driven by compassion and courage, but by fear and hate.” He ultimately believes he made the right decision: “If you err on the side of trust and faith and hope, sometimes you get it wrong. But, the truth of the matter is that if you abandon those characteristics, the whole country is at risk.”
Singel sees it as imperative that voters and politicians stay away from damaging “bumper-sticker” rhetoric and instead opt for mercy and compassion.