In a recent response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information about number and types of pardons granted between mid-June, 2022 and early-April, 2023, the Chief Legal Counsel, and FOIA Officer, for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board has advised that a mere fifteen (15) individuals have received a pardon, or act of executive clemency, from Governor J. B. Pritzker. More specifically, since June 15, 2022 and through and including April 3, 2023, there were two (2) “batches” of executive clemency grants issued (nine (9) on February 17, 2023 and six (6) on February 24, 2023) including two (2) commutations of sentence and thirteen (13) pardons authorizing expungment in the circuit court of conviction. None of these clemency grants included restoration of firearms privileges, or the ability to apply for an Illinois Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) Card. The pardoned convictions ranged, as is typical, from misdemeanor to felony, although most of these convictions were the latter. There were five (5) “violent” offenses pardoned, but the other ten (10) were “non-violent”, including offenses such as retail theft, traffic and drug offenses. One of the commutation of sentences issued by Pritzker was for an aggravated kidnapping conviction from 1999, and the most serious pardon with authorization for expungement was given to an individual with mulitple convictions including armed robbery and unlawful use of a weapon. More generally, the relief granted this past February by Governor Pritzker involved convictions ranging in dates from 1977 through 2010.
I am pleased to learn of the fifteen (15) people receiving relief through the executive clemency process, and trust that these individuals will finally be able to put past mistakes behind themselves, but I do not believe that nearly enough “second chances” are being given by the present administration. There were undoubtedly many petitions for pardons denied during the nearly ten (10) month date range at issue and I am working to get more information concerning how many petitions were filed, in total, in order to determine percentage granted numbers, along with other important information. I, of course, do not know the details behind every petition, nor do I know every petitioner; I do know, however, that I had very deserving young man denied a commutation of sentence during the time frame stated above (in fact, he was released from custody multiple months prior to his petition actually being decided, which is problematic in my mind on its own). I would urge Governor Pritzker to step up his efforts with regards to deciding, and ultimately granting, petitions for executive clemency – he must remember, above all, that each of us is human and that we all make mistakes. People can and do change, and so many of us can benefit from being given the benefit of the doubt.