Brief procedural overview for Clemency Petitions in Illinois

I have been receiving numerous calls from people wanting to inquire about the status of their, or their loved ones’, clemency petitions. Please understand that I write these posts in an attempt to share knowledge on various clemency (and expungement/sealing) related issues, but that I am just a solo practitioner, and not in any way affiliated with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. I cannot answer specific questions from clemency petitioners about the status of his/her petition.  Anyone seeking information as to the status of his or her clemency petition should reach out directly to the Prisoner Review Board at (217) 782-7273, or

I can provide, however, the following general information about petitions for executive clemency within the State of Illinois: petitions must follow certain guidelines set forth by the PRB.  Within the petition, petitioners can choose whether to have an optional public hearing before members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board; once the written document is filed, petitioners will thereafter receive written notice of next steps to follow, including how to complete and submit fingerprints, either on paper or electronically (for not-in-custody petitioners), and when/where his or her assigned public hearing will take place (if that option was chosen).  The PRB’s website will also reflect, once updated, general information about hearings, but not specifics regarding each petitioner.  Hearings are typically assigned around two and one-half months after the written petition’s filing deadline.

Once the public hearing has occurred, members of the Prisoner Review Board will meet, behind closed doors, to determine what recommendation to give to the Governor about an individual’s clemency petition (i.e., should it be granted or denied).  This recommendation is completely confidential and no one will know what the recommendation to the Governor is.  Once the PRB has submitted the recommendation, the Governor then has an unlimited amount of time to decide whether to grant, in part or in full, a petitioner’s clemency petition.  “Results” will be mailed directly to the petitioner, or the petitioner’s attorney of record if there was one, shortly after they are decided.  After a petition is submitted and, if this option was chosen, the public hearing has been held, no one can advise of the petition’s exact status beyond the fact that it is pending before the Governor of Illinois.  It is extremely important for a petition to keep his or her address current with the Prisoner Review Board, at all times, for purposes of decisions ultimately being mailed out once they are ready.

It must be remembered that Illinois courts have determined that there is no time limit under which the Governor must decide a clemency petition, or, even, that the Governor is under no duty to decide a petition. Remembering back to Governor Blagojevich’s time, numerous clemency petitions went undecided for multiple years, sadly.  While subsequent Illinois governors have all chosen to address clemency petitions, thankfully, the clemency process is not, on the whole, speedy, and a petitioner’s petition can take a year or two, on average, to be granted or denied.  Finally, it is worth noting that if a petitioner is denied relief, he or she must generally wait one year from the date of denial to prepare and file a new petition for executive clemency, pursuant to 730 ILCS 5/3-3-13(a-5).  Many petitioners have had to file two or more petitions before getting relief ultimately.


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