Massachusetts Pardon and Parole Laws


In Massachusetts, laws relating to pardon and parole can be found in ALM GL ch. 127, § 152 through ch. 127, § 169.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 152, in a case in which the governor is authorized by the constitution to grant a pardon, s/he may, with the advice and consent of the council, and upon the written petition of the petitioner, grant it, subject to such conditions, restrictions and limitations as s/he considers proper, and s/he may issue his warrant to all proper officers to carry such pardon into effect.  Such warrant must be obeyed and executed instead of the sentence originally awarded.

ALM GL ch. 127, § 152 provides that if a sentence of death is imposed on a child under seventeen years of age, and if, before s/he reaches the age of seventeen, the governor pardons such child and commits him or her to the care of the department of youth services, said department must assume control over him or her.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 152, every pardon petition must, before its presentation to the governor, be filed with the parole board, acting as the advisory board of pardons, together with all statements and signatures appended thereto, and must thereupon become a public record.

ALM GL ch. 127, § 152 provides that in the case of a prisoner confined under sentence for a felony, no final action or vote must be taken on such petition until after a public hearing has been held by the council.  Such hearing must be held as soon as practicable after the filing of such petition with the council.  Any action taken by the council on such petition must be taken by a roll call vote of the members present, recording, and voting as yea or nay.  The presence of a quorum and the vote of the majority of all members of the council present is necessary for the approval or disapproval of a petition.  Within three days after such vote of the council, a certified copy of such roll call must be filed with the state secretary for public inspection.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 152, the governor, with the advice and consent of the council, may at any time revoke any pardon if s/he, with such advice and consent, determines that there is a misstatement of a material fact knowingly made at the time of the filing of the written petition of the petitioner, or that such pardon was procured by fraud, concealment or misrepresentation, and upon such revocation the governor may issue his or her warrant to all proper officers to take the person so pardoned into custody and return him or her to the institution where s/he was imprisoned at the time of the granting of the pardon.  Such warrant must be obeyed and executed by the officers to whom it is issued, and the person whose pardon has been so revoked must have the same standing in the penal institution to which s/he is returned as s/he would have had if said pardon had not been granted, except that the time during which s/he has been out of said penal institution upon such pardon, must not be counted in determining the amount of his or her sentence remaining to be served upon such return to such institution.

ALM GL ch. 127, § 152 provides that the governor, at the end of each calendar year, transmit to the general court, by filing with the clerk of either branch, a list of pardons granted with the advice and consent of the council during such calendar year, together with action of the advisory board of pardons concerning each such pardon, and together with a list of any revocations of pardons.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 153, in all cases of petitions for pardons referred to the executive council by the governor, where the petitioner is serving a sentence in the state prison, the executive secretary must notify the attorney general, and also the district attorney who prosecuted the case, and they or their representatives may be present at the hearing on the petition by the pardon committee of the executive council, examine the petitioner’s witnesses, and present to the pardon committee full information as to the case of the commonwealth against the petitioner on which s/he stands convicted of the crime for which s/he is serving sentence.

Duties of Parole Board

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 154,the parole board is the advisory board of pardons. The board, upon receipt of a pardon petition in a case in which the petitioner is confined in a correctional institution of the commonwealth, forwards a copy of such petition to the attorney general, the commissioner of correction, the chief of police of the municipality in which the crime was committed, and, if the petitioner was sentenced in the superior court, the district attorney in whose district sentence was imposed, or, if the petitioner was sentenced in a district court, the justice of the court in which sentence was imposed.

ALM GL ch. 127, § 154 provides that upon receipt of all other petitions, the board must forward a copy to the attorney general, the chief of police, and the district attorney or the justice of the district court.  However, they must not be required to forward said copies if the petitioner was convicted of a misdemeanor and is not confined.  Within six weeks of the receipt of a copy of any petition, the appropriate officials may make written recommendations concerning such petition to the advisory board, but failure of any or all of these officials to make such recommendations, must not arrest the pardoning procedure in the case.  Within ten weeks of the original receipt of any petition, the advisory board must transmit the original petition to the governor, together with its conclusions and recommendations and together with such recommendations as have been received from the above officials.  If the board determines that adequate consideration of the case requires a hearing on its merits by the board, said board is not required to submit its recommendations at the end of ten weeks but must notify the governor of its intention to hold a hearing.  However, such hearing must be held and a report made to the governor within six months of the original receipt of the petition by the board.  If the board determines that such hearing must be held, in the case of a petitioner who is confined under sentence for a felony, the attorney general and the district attorney must be notified of the hearing and they or their representatives given the opportunity to appear, examine the petitioner’s witnesses and be heard.

ALM GL ch. 127, § 154 provides that if in the opinion of the board, the facts stated in their report to the governor are such as to cause undue or unmerited hardship or injury to the petitioner or to other individuals, if made public, the portion of said report containing such facts may be submitted separately from the conclusions and recommendations and without publicity.  However, in all cases a statement containing the facts of the crime or crimes for which a pardon or commutation is sought, the sentence or sentences received, together with all conclusions and recommendations must be made public when the report is submitted.  A copy of such statement, as well as a statement of the majority recommendation of the board, signed by all members concurring, and a certified copy of the petition with all statements and signatures appended thereto, must be retained by the board as a permanent record open to public inspection at any reasonable time for a period of ten years from the date the original petition was filed with the board.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 154, the said board must not review the proceedings of the trial court and must not consider any questions regarding the correctness, regularity or legality of such proceedings, but must confine itself solely to matters which properly bear upon the propriety of the extension of clemency to the petitioner.  Said board, from time to time, may make rules relative to the calling of meetings and to the proceedings thereat.  The board or any of its members may summon witnesses and administer oaths or affirmations.  The fees of witnesses before the board must be the same as for witnesses in civil actions before the courts, and must be paid from the appropriation for the expenses of the parole board.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 155, if a prisoner who has been pardoned upon conditions to be observed and performed by him or her violates such conditions, the parole board must forthwith cause him or her to be arrested and detained, and the warden, superintendent or keeper, respectively, of the institution in which the prisoner was confined must receive said prisoner and cause him or her to be detained until the case can be examined by the governor and council.  The officer who makes the arrest must forthwith give written notice thereof to the governor and council.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 156, the governor and council must, upon receiving such notice, examine the case of such prisoner.  If it appears by his or her own admission or by evidence that s/he has violated the condition of his or her pardon, the governor, with the advice and consent of the council, must order him or her to be remanded and confined for the unexpired term of his or her sentence, said confinement, if the prisoner is under any other sentence of imprisonment at the time of said order, to begin upon the expiration of such sentence.  In computing the period of his or her confinement, the time between the conditional pardon and subsequent arrest must not be taken to be part of the term of his or her sentence.  If it appears to the governor and council that s/he has not broken the conditions of his or her conditional pardon, s/he shall be discharged.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 157, if a prisoner is pardoned or punishment is commuted, the officer to whom the warrant for such purpose is issued must, as soon as may be after executing it, make return thereof, signed by him or her, with his or her doings thereon, to the secretary’s office, and must file in the office of the clerk of the court in which the offender was convicted an attested copy of the warrant and return, and the clerk must subjoin a brief abstract thereof to the record of the conviction and sentence.

Pursuant to ALM GL ch. 127, § 166, no person must, in the attempt to procure, or for the procurement of, any pardon, parole, commutation of or respite from sentence of a prisoner then confined in, or at liberty after having been confined in, any of the penal institutions, or then under sentence to serve a term of imprisonment in any of said institutions, knowingly pay or offer to pay, or solicit, offer to receive or receive, either by way of gift or of reward or of compensation for services, or otherwise, except for proper legal services, any money or other thing of value, or must transmit the same from one person to another; nor in such attempt or for such procurement shall any person make, or offer or promise to make, or to procure or induce the making of, any appointment to any position, whether or not in the public service.

Massachusetts Pardon and Parole Laws