Georgia’s Pardon Rate Ranks High Among States


Georgia has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, but it is also a forgiving state, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Each year about 1,600 convicted felons ask the state to forgive them formally for past crimes. About 38 percent of the requests are granted. The five-member board issued 561 pardons in the year that ended June 30. Now, 2,067 pardon and restoration-of-rights applications are pending. Margaret Colgate Love, a former pardons official at the U.S. Justice Department and author of a book on state pardons, said Georgia is near the top of a group of 17 states that grant many pardons each year. Most states seldom grant them.

“I look at the age of the person when they committed the crime; I look at the number of crimes and the types of crimes they committed,” said Bob Keller, a member of the board and former district attorney. “The mere fact that it is a particular kind of crime is not as important as the actual facts surrounding it.” A felon normally has to wait five years after the completion of a sentence, including probation, to apply for a pardon and then must provide three letters of reference. Most felony convictions result in the loss of the civil rights to vote, sit on a jury, or hold public office. S conviction stays on the record of a pardoned offender. The board tells the pardoned they still must report past crimes if asked. “A pardon at least allows them to get their foot in the door,” said Jim Wetherington, a former board member. “He can tell an employer that, 'Yes I did so-in-so in the past but I've been pardoned for it.' “

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