A commutation of sentence is a reduction in sentence. In a commutation of sentence, a person is not absolved from a conviction completely, but, his/her punishment is substituted with a lesser punishment. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to a sentence of imprisonment for life[i].
A commutation of sentence may be granted according to the statues existing in different states. It is permitted by law to grant a commutation of sentence. A governor of a state is vested with the exclusive power to pardon[ii] and it may be subject to legislative controls[iii]. A legislature may provide for commutation of the sentence of convicts for good behavior.
In a commutation of sentence, there occurs a change in a sentence or punishment. Therefore it does not include parole, because no sentence reduction takes place in parole.
The distinction between pardon and commutation are that a pardon is a complete remission of penalty by a sovereign power as authorized by law[iv]. But, a commutation of a sentence is only a substitution of a lesser punishment for a greater punishment. Also, a pardon has to be accepted by the person who is pardoned, while a sentence may be commuted without the consent of the convict[v].
[i] Ex parte Denton, 69 Okla. Crim. 204 (Okla. Crim. App. 1940).
[ii] Whittington v. Stevens, 221 Miss. 598 (Miss. 1954).
[iii] Jamison v. Flanner, 116 Kan. 624 (Kan. 1924).
[iv] Whittington v. Stevens, 221 Miss. 598 (Miss. 1954).
[v] Wilkinson v. Maurer, 1993 Ohio App. LEXIS 2045 (Ohio Ct. App., Franklin County Apr. 8, 1993).