Pardons Become Very Rare During Governor Patrick’s Tenure

July 7, 2012 12:00 AM
Pardons Become Very Rare During Governor Patrick’s Tenure
" BOSTON (AP) — In his five years as Massachusetts’ chief executive, Gov. Deval Patrick has been careful to avoid the political pitfalls that come with the power to grant clemency, by denying the one petition that has cleared enough hurdles to make it to his desk.

The Democratic governor has also taken measures to strengthen the clemency process. Upon taking office in January 2007, he revised clemency guidelines to encourage petitioners to seek “other avenues” to clear their criminal records, like having them sealed, among other changes.

He also nominated new parole board members — a majority of whom came in a move he said was intended to restore public confidence in the system after a parolee shot and killed a police officer in 2010.

Under the Massachusetts constitution, governors can grant pardons, which forgive an offender’s underlying offense, and commutations, which modify inmate sentences, in “exceptional circumstances.”

But before that can happen, petitions must first be reviewed and approved by the seven-member Massachusetts Parole Board, which serves as the Advisory Board of Pardons. The Governor’s Council makes final actions on pardons and commutations.

In Patrick’s time as governor, over 280 pardon and 220 commutation petitions were filed in Massachusetts "

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