Monday, April 27, 2015

Delaware: Pardons!

DelawareOnline reports Gov. Jack Markell "has signed 1,569 pardons during his six-plus years in office, more than any other Delaware governor." Data suggest the record of previous governors is as follows:

1977-1984, Du Pont: 238 grants, 39 denials
1985-1992, Castle: 382 grants, 17 denials
1993-2000, Carper: 675 grants, 123 denials
2001-2008: Miner: 940 grants, 82 denials
2009/2014, Markell: 1339 grants, 887 denials

Since 1950, "the board has recommended pardons for about 85 percent of 4,800 applicants. Governors have granted 93 percent of the board-approved bids." It is reported that "the vast majority" of Markell's pardons were given to "people with minor offenses" but some went to "criminals with serious felonies. The News Journal is concerned that the state "doesn't track the progress of those who have received pardons" and "has no system to follow whether a person who receives a pardon commits another crime."

The Journal did find one Dipeshkumar Patel, who was pardoned over a prosecutor's objections in 2014 and then, later, "slammed his Mercedes-Benz sedan into a stopped car on New Castle Avenue" while driving with a blood alcohol level "more than three times the legal limit." According to the Journal, Patel:
... had pleaded guilty in 1999 to patronizing a prostitute and in 2002 and 2004 for selling alcohol to a minor. Patel also was arrested for drunken driving in 1993 and 2008 and took the first offender's program both times. He sought the pardon in 2013, Patel said, because he wanted his criminal record "to be nice and clean if you apply for a job." 
Meanwhile, it is reported that Governor Markell (who sat on the pardons board for a decade) was "unaware his pardon numbers were at historic levels." But, he insists, the "best predictor" of whether someone will re-offend is whether they have a job. He wants "to get more people employed."

Delaware has "taken other limited steps" to make it easier for citizens with a criminal record to find employment.
Legislation passed last year, and signed into law by Markell, prevents most government employers in Delaware from asking applicants about a criminal history before the first interview. The so-called "ban-the-box" measure prevents government hiring managers from initially screening applicants based on previous run-ins with the law. It still allows governments to run background checks as a condition of employment. 
Fred Calhoun, president of the Delaware Fraternal Order of Police, believes "more care is needed" to make sure pardon recipients aren't re-offending and he is concerned that businesses are being given a "false sense of security" about job applicants. Absent any hard data on the topic, he would prefer that they have a false sense of insecurity.

The piece notes "most" pardons "receive little if any public scrutiny" but the case of Wilmington "activist" Rev. Derrick D. Johnson was different. Johnson was convicted of "manslaughter, possession of a weapon during a felony, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, robbery, attempted robbery, unlawful imprisonment and carrying a concealed deadly weapon and spent "several years in prison."  Gov. Markell believed Johnson "learned from his behavior" and had lived a "productive life."

Markell agrees data on repeat offenders would not be "bad information to have," but wonders what anyone would really "do with it." As far as he is concerned, he is "not going to hold somebody else's mistake against the current applicant." See full story here.

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