Gov. Rauner Grants Clemency to Few

Clemency Rate Drops to 3.6% Under Governor Rauner

Last year, after Governor Rauner ruled on his second batch of clemency petitions, in a June 2015 blog post, I wrote that there were few clues to explain why 7 people were granted clemency and 57 were denied clemency.

Since that posting, Governor Rauner went on to grant an additional 30 petitions. All told, in 2015, 37 petitions were granted (3.6%) and 1001 petitions were denied. The governor’s office says it will review petitions for clemency on a regular basis. In 2015, petitions were granted in April, May, July, September, November, and December.

The petitions Governor Rauner reviewed were among those he inherited from Governor Quinn. About 1,000 petitions now remain from that batch.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Looking at the information provided about the petitions granted since July 2015, I found the following details noteworthy:

  • Most petitioners were not sentenced to prison
  • Felony offenses granted (that are not sealable) included: burglary, possession of burglary tools, possession of a stolen vehicle, state benefits fraud, aggravated battery
  • Misdemeanor offenses granted (not sealable) included: domestic battery, reckless driving
  • Two petitioners had their F.O.I.D. card rights reinstated for non-violent felony offenses (theft by deception, burglary)
  • The most recent offenses granted clemency took place in 2006 (felony drug possession, misdemeanor battery)

What does this information say to prospective clemency candidates?

Some Clemency Candidates Face Greater Odds

First, the odds of receiving clemency have shrunk dramatically since Governor Rauner took office.  Individuals seeking clemency for drugs offenses (possession) and property crimes (theft, forgery, burglary) stand the greatest chance of success.  The older the case, the better -- especially if the crime occurred prior to 2005. As was the case under Governor Quinn, those seeking clemency for a violent offense or a DUI continue to face stiff odds.

To overcome these new odds, it is more important than ever to be represented by an attorney who is familiar with the clemency process. Be wary of anyone who guarantees you that s/he can get you clemency.

I will not represent you unless I believe you have a reasonable shot at getting clemency. What do I mean by that?

First, I need to know that enough time has elapsed since your last conviction. Ideally, there should be proof of rehabilitation (drug rehab, returning to school to get a GED or job skills training). If underlying factors exist (e.g., substance abuse, mental illness) that can explain your misconduct, this can go a long way towards making you a more sympathetic candidate before the clemency board.

Getting clemency has gotten a lot harder but it remains possible under the right set of circumstances.