Pardon is the action of the executive to mitigate or set aside the punishment for a crime[i]. In the U.S., the President has the power to grant pardon in federal offences and the governors, and the board of pardon is authorized to grant pardon in the states. By pardoning an offender, the individual is fully forgiven from all the legal consequences of the crime and its conviction.
Pardon can be full or conditional. When an unconditional pardon is granted it fully restores an individual’s civil rights forfeited upon conviction of a crime. A full pardon absolves one from all legal consequences of the crime[ii]. However, the convictions cannot be removed. The offenders right to vote, to serve on a jury, or to hold political office is restored. A pardon does not restore an offender to property or interests which have vested in others in consequence of the conviction and judgment. A person with a conditional pardon remains subject to conditions of release. A conditional pardon does not restore civil rights or rights of citizenship, and the executive can revoke the pardon if a person does not comply with the conditions of release.
Generally, pardons are granted to a single offender. However, there is no limitation to that rule. Amnesty is the pardon of individuals or categories of people for the violation of law. If a person is a joint offender in a felony and pardon is granted to one person then pardon can be granted to all the joint offenders[iii].
The constitutional power of the executive to grant pardons is beyond the control of the judiciary. No court has the power to review grounds or motives for the action of the executive in granting a pardon. The constitutional power of the President to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the U.S. is an unreviewable power.
Parole is the conditional release of a person convicted for a felony. The release should be before the expiration of the person’s imprisonment term. Parole is normally, provided to a person under the supervision of the Board of Paroles and Pardons. On violation of the imposed conditions the convicted person has to resume the imprisonment upon cancellation of parole. Parole allows a convicted person to complete the sentence in the community.
Paroles are regulated by statutes and state constitutions[iv]. The statutes vary from state to state. Generally, parolees have no constitutional right of representation in parole hearings and parole revocation hearings. However, most states provide representation to impoverished inmates and parolees in such hearings.
Parole can be issued for several reasons because it is less expensive to supervise a parolee than to imprison a convicted person. A person on parole can continue the period of sentence in the society. The society is also granted protection because the parolee is supervised. A parole can be revoked for the most minor of transgressions. Parole is a method of rehabilitation because it gives convicts supervision and guidance during their reentry into society.
Parole is not a method of reducing sentences or awarding a pardon. Just because a person is eligible for a parole, the convict need not be provided parole. This is because it is a privilege and not a right[v]. Persons convicted for violent crimes are also provided paroles after hearing. To be eligible for a parole, the person should have served part of the sentence in the jail. Violation of conditions will result in revocation of the parole. If a parole is revoked it will result in re-imprisonment of the offender[vi].
When a prisoner is provided a parole the person will be released to the street for the remainder of the sentence. This does not eliminate or change the duration of the original sentence. A parole comes with certain conditions such as supervision by a parole officer, substance abuse treatment, or obtainment of a GED. If the conditions of the parole are violated, the parole can be revoked, returning the inmate to prison for the duration of his/her sentence. Every parole will not result in release from prison. Prisoners can be paroled from one sentence to a consecutive sentence and not released from prison.
Paroles and pardons must be approved by the members of the Pardon and Parole Board before being presented to the governor for his consideration. The governor has the discretion to allow or cancel a parole or pardon. The details of the pardon and parole will be reported before the legislature by the governor.
A pardon is different from a parole or commutation. Pardons do not clear a criminal record. However, a pardon acknowledges that the offender has worked hard to become a productive, law-abiding citizen after making mistakes in the past.
It is not necessary that the prisoner should apply for the pardon. Any person can apply for pardon of an inmate. Pardon cannot be awarded to a person who just became an inmate of the prison. It can be provided only to persons who have served their sentence, completed parole, or served at least part of the sentence under supervision and have no pending charges. The governor of a state cannot pardon federal convictions or convictions from other states.
A person receiving a conditional pardon has the same restrictions as a person on parole. When the conditions are not fulfilled, a conditional pardon or a parole can be revoked. The person violating the conditions can be re-imprisoned. If the person poses a danger to the society also the authorities can revoke or cancel a pardon or parole[vii]. If the offender is arrested for another crime also a pardon or parole can be revoked.
[i] Fleenor v. Hammond, 116 F.2d 982 (6th Cir. Ky. 1941).
[ii] Damiano v. Burge, 481 S.W.2d 562 (Mo. Ct. App. 1972).
[iii] Ford v. Cobb, 20 N.Y. 344 (N.Y. 1859).
[iv] Wilkinson v. Maurer, 1993 Ohio App. LEXIS 2045 (Ohio Ct. App., Franklin County Apr. 8, 1993).
[v] Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal & Correctional Complex, 442 U.S. 1 (U.S. 1979).
[vi] Ex parte Butler, 40 Okla. Crim. 434 (Okla. Crim. App. 1928).
[vii] In re Tucker, 5 Cal. 3d 171 (Cal. 1971).