NY Governor Kathy Hochul granted pardon to 10 individuals on Friday, the same day she revealed proposals to improve the state’s clemency process, which would include increasing openness and reducing red tape to immigrants.
In addition to granting the nine pardons on Christmas Eve, Governor Hochul took further procedures that, according to the governor’s office, would allow the individuals to remain in the nation without fear of deportation or other associated difficulties. Several others have had their sentences commuted, including one man who had been serving a drug-related term since 1992.
The revelation was met with skepticism by criminal justice activists, who had been advocating for far-reaching reforms, especially in light of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the state. The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign, for example, expressed dismay, saying it was a “huge disappointment” that the governor decided to pardon only 9 people. The campaign has advocated for governmental action on the subject of imprisonment.
Jose Saldana, the campaign’s director, said in a statement that “we are saddened knowing that so many of our moms, dads, grandparents, and grandfathers are suffering behind bars and facing a slow death sentence.” He made a special point about the fact that no mercy was offered to women who are detained.
The governor, who is about to enter her first legislative session as the state’s chief executive, announced intentions to change the state’s procedure for awarding clemency to those who have committed crimes.
An advisory group to help with clemency petitions will be selected by the governor’s counsel in the near future. Members of law enforcement, the courts, clergy, and previously jailed individuals will be represented on the panel, which will be moderated by formerly incarcerated individuals.
When provided with more resources, the governor’s office anticipates that the decision to grant clemency will be made throughout the year and that it will “occur in a meaningful fashion,” and that “each application will get the comprehensive and timely treatment that it deserves.”
The state also intends to share information on the number of clemency petitions that were presented within the year, as well as how many were granted or refused. People who have pending clemency applications will be informed twice a year that their case has not been closed yet.
Hochul also intends to collaborate with the clemency bureau of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to ensure that the department is aware of the criteria the governor’s office is looking for in applications.
A statement from Hochul said, “I am committed to improved openness and responsibility in this process moving ahead. It is important to remember that no one should be defined by their biggest mistake, and these people have worked relentlessly to make up for theirs.”