Monday, January 26, 2015

Hawaii: Need for Reform?

Peter Carlisle of the Honolulu Civil Beat notes that, in one of his last acts as governor, Neil Abercrombiein "did what he could to clear the slate of a man local media dubbed the 'Manoa Home Invader' [and] that’s so troubling that it should lead to change." In addition, the otherwise "expressive politician" did not "explain his actions to the people who elected him."

Carlisle notes “Midnight pardons” are "hardly new" for presidents and governors "on their way out the door" and they "have often drawn scrutiny, criticism and embarrassment for leaders."
... Since Rodrigues was already out of prison, why does a pardon matter? A felon loses certain rights, including the ability to vote, serve on a jury, run for office and carry a gun. Someone who is pardoned gets most of those rights back, although the right to carry a gun must be specified in the pardon. ... But a pardon does not erase a conviction, which remains on the criminal’s record and must be disclosed when information about past criminal activity is required. A pardon doesn’t say someone is innocent; it is that he is forgiven. A pardon from a governor surely makes life easier on a convicted felon.
The piece goes on to argue that the "main problem" with the pardon process is that "there are few rules, procedures or regulations that frame it." Thus, Carlisle suggests that governors should "promise" to " complete their pardons by a certain date and include a written justification before a pardon is formalized."  As for the written explanations, he elaborates:
Such justifications should include factual information, reasoning, policy considerations and other factors that the governor deems relevant to the pardon being prepared. Here is why: A written decision, published in advance, will allow for public scrutiny and accountability of the governor’s decision to pardon a convicted criminal. This process might even allow the governor to escape shadows of suspicion, whether influence peddling or ignorance of details about a convicted criminal’s past that should be weighed before pardoning them. This could spare governors and presidents a great deal of embarrassment and, more importantly, make the process healthier. 
Another suggestion: "if a governor knows that he or she won’t run for re-election, this should be done several months — perhaps three to six — before the end of the gubernatorial term."  See full editorial here.

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