On this Fourth of July holiday, while many of us are enjoying the abundant freedoms our great nation has to offer, others are not so fortunate. One group of people that comes to mind in that regard would be those incarcerated, either now or in years past, or individuals otherwise convicted of a criminal offense. The stigma associated having a past, or present, criminal offense (especially felony) on one’s record cannot be ignored and is one of the main reasons many of my clients approach me seeking help in petitioning the Illinois governor for a pardon. The term “executive clemency”, or “pardon”, is generally thought of as the umbrella word for a few different types of relief, including authorization to expunge and commutation of sentence. Firearms privileges, otherwise forfeited post criminal conviction, can also be restored by the governor, if properly requested in a pardon petition and should he see fit to do so.
During the year and a half span (January 1, 2021 through January 14, 2022), Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker granted a total of one hundred forty-seven (147) pardons or clemencies, including two (2) pardons, one hundred twenty-three (123) pardons authorizing expungement, three (3) pardons authorizing expungement and restoring the petitioner’s firearms privileges previous forfeited, twenty-two (22) commutations of sentence (including three (3) commutations to parole-eligible crimes). While these “acts of mercy” by Governor Pritzker are undoubtedly invaluable to the individual recipients, I am all but certain there are many other deserving individuals still awaiting decisions on their pending petitions for clemency…individuals either still incarcerated or otherwise inhibited by their past criminal records. I urge Governor Pritzker to continue, and even increase, his review of pending pardon petitions and further, to do whatever necessary to ensure the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is capable of operating efficiently and expediently when it comes to the public hearings that are associated with executive clemency petitions. Most importantly, I also thank Governor Pritzker for giving these one hundred and forty-seven (147) people their lives back in some way. Finally, it goes without saying that I, for one, will continue to fight zealously for petitioners’ rights to be reinstated through the pardon process for as long as it may take!