Friday, November 20, 2015

Minnesota: Inside Look at Pardoning

Briana Bierschbach of has a fantastic story on the pardon process in the State. It notes that the Minnesota Board of Pardons has the power to "effectively clear someone’s criminal record" even though it does not hold "official judicial proceeding[s]," It is composed of the State's attorney general, the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and the governor. Although the Board can commute sentences, it usually grants “pardon extraordinaries” which "legally absolv[e] citizens of their crimes after they’ve served their time and shown demonstrable rehabilitation." Bierschbach notes:
Over the last century, the state of Minnesota has gone from generously granting pardons to criminals to a system that only occasionally grants forgiveness ... While the board used to pardon people regularly for crimes like sexual and physical assault — even murder — today someone seeking clemency for disorderly conduct or theft might not receive an official pardon. And Minnesota’s unique, three-person system sets a high bar: The vote to pardon someone must be unanimous
The piece also notes that the Board meets only twice a year and:
Violent offenders must wait 10 years after their sentence has expired to be eligible for a pardon extraordinary, and even after that wait, violent offenses are rarely granted clemency from the Board of Pardons. From 1992 to 2012, about 82 percent of pardon extraordinaries granted by the board were for nonviolent crimes, according to data from the Department of Corrections. 
The story goes on to provide some interesting detail on a couple of applications and is excellent reading, Give it a look in its entirety here.

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