Tuesday's informative article, "In a rarity, Rendell commutes a life sentence," made one important false assumption.

The article suggested that commutations granted to Pennsylvania inmates sentenced to life in prison dried up due to the actions of pardoned killer Reginald McFadden, who went on to commit heinous crimes after his release in 1994.

If this conclusion were true, then it would logically follow that for every pardoned lifer who went on to live as a productive and law-abiding citizen, our governors would have issued many more commutations. But this is not how the system works.

Government officials pander to the public and stoke their fears by acting only on those particular parole and pardon cases that will earn them votes for being tough on crime.

We hear much about the "pardon gone wrong," but little about the ones that go well.

The McFadden case didn't cause Gov. Tom Ridge to refuse to commute any life sentences, or lead to Gov. Rendell's decision to commute so few, or motivate the legislature to tighten the rules for commutation.

The failure rests with the media, the public, and our governing bodies, for expecting perfection in judging future human behavior, while failing to focus on the pardoned former lifers who have succeeded after getting out of prison.

Beverly Y. Cohen

Harleysville