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Governor Rauner Uses Clemency Power Sparingly

Since taking office in January, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has been mum about how he feels about using his power to grant clemency . During his first six months in office, Gov. Rauner has only granted clemency to nine people, while rejecting the petitions of 201.

Few Clemency Petitions Granted, Even Fewer Clues as to Why

In April, Gov. Rauner announced his first clemency decisions.  The only information made public about the two lucky individuals was that their crimes occurred a long time ago (1979 and 1992), and only one case clearly involved a felony offense (burglary).  No information was provided about the petitions denied (i.e., offense, date occurred).

When Gov. Rauner announced his second round of clemency decisions in May even less information was provided about the petitions granted. No information was provided about when the crimes occurred.  Most of the pardoned offenses were misdemeanors (theft or retail theft (4), battery (1), and criminal damage to property (1)).  Only two involved felony offenses (forgery, theft).

Does it Make Sense to Petition For Clemency?

Given how few petitions Gov. Rauner has granted, is it still worth applying? Well, it depends on several factors: 1) the crime, 2) when the crime occurred, 3) how long you’ve been crime free, 4) presence of  mitigating factors, and 5) the reason why you want clemency.

Although Illinois has no written guidelines for obtaining clemency, there is an unwritten rule that you be crime free for at least 10 years.  The Prisoner Review Board (PRB), the agency that advises the governor on whether someone should receive clemency, tends to be more sympathetic to individuals with drug offenses or who committed crimes because of a substance abuse problem they have since overcome.

The odds of obtaining clemency are always better if represented by an attorney.  An attorney who appears regularly before the PRB is in a better position to determine whether you’d be a strong  candidate for clemency.

Until Rauner leave more tea leaves behind, I will continue to represent candidates I believe the PRB will recommend.  It is doubtful that any Illinois governor would grant clemency to someone who did not get  a “thumbs up” from the PRB.

 

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