OLR Research Report

January 14, 2005




By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney

You asked for pardons statistics from other states.


We could not find a source providing pardons statistics from all of the states. But we did obtain information on pardons and other forms of clemency, including restoration of forfeited rights, from a number of states which we describe below. In addition, we have attached statistics on presidential pardons.

According to one study, about 2,000 clemency orders are issued annually by governors (“States' Pardons Now Looked at in Starker Light,” New York Times, February 16, 2001, citing a 1988 National Governors' Association report). Clemency can include pardons, sentence commutations, and other orders lessening punishments. Another study states that it is difficult to generalize the practice in the states but the use of pardons decreased “markedly” after 1990 in almost every state (Justice Kennedy Commission, American Bar Association, August 2004).


California governors granted 1,322 pardons from 1967 to the present.

Governors granted the following number of pardons:

1. Governor Schwarzenegger (2003-present)—3,

2. Governor Davis (1999-2003)—0,

3. Governor Wilson (1991-1999)—13,

4. Governor Deukmejian (1983-1991)—328,

5. Governor Brown (1975-1983)—403, and

6. Governor Reagan (1967-1975)—575.

(Source: Press Release, “Governor Schwarzenegger Grants Three Pardons,” December 22, 2004)


In Florida, felons permanently lose civil rights including the right to vote, serve on a jury, and hold public office. Florida's Clemency Board rejected more than 200,000 civil rights applications since Governor Jeb Bush took office in 1999, the highest rejection rate in at least 16 years. But 48,000 felons regained their rights in the last six years.

In 2000, the board restored rights to about 1,000 people, the fewest in 25 years (“200,000 Rights Applications Rejected Since '99,” Miami Herald, October 31, 2004).


Minnesota granted 22 pardons extraordinary, which are available only after completing a sentence, during 2002 and 2003.

The Minnesota Board of Pardons grants pardons (which exempt the convicted person from punishment), sentence commutations, and pardons extraordinary (which are granted after completing a sentence to set aside the conviction so the applicant does not have to report it except in limited circumstances).

Board staff attempt to determine whether a person is eligible before sending out applications. The number of completed applications that are returned is substantially lower than the number sent out.

For 2003:

1. staff sent out 101 applications for pardons extraordinary and 25 applications for pardons or commutations in response to requests;

2. the board found all 13 applications for pardons or commutations ineligible because they did not raise any new issues not duly considered by the courts; and

3. the board received 17 applications for pardons extraordinary and granted 10, found one ineligible, and denied six.

For 2002:

1. staff sent out 119 applications for pardons extraordinary and 23 applications for pardons or commutations in response to requests;

2. the board found all seven pardon or commutation applications ineligible because they did not raise any new issues not duly considered by the courts; and

3. the board received 17 applications for pardons extraordinary and granted 12 and denied five.


Since Governor Pataki took office in 1995, he has granted clemency 31 times (clemencies do not earn inmates their freedom but allow prisoners to get an immediate parole hearing). 27 of the 31 clemencies were for inmates serving penalties under the “Rockefeller drug laws” and most were serving up to life sentences for relatively minor drug offenses not involving violence (“Pataki Will Grant No Clemencies This Year,” Newsday, December 20, 2004).


During the 20th century, Ohio governors granted 2,634 pardons and 2,815 sentence commutations (Holcomb, Jefferson, “The Use of Executive Clemency in Ohio: A Historical Assessment,” Ohio Corrections Research Compendium, Vol. II, April 2004).

Ohio Clemency Reports provide the following statistics:

1. for 2001-2002: 8 pardons, 1 conditional commutation, 1 commutation to time served;

2. for 1999-2000: 10 pardons, 2 conditional pardons, 1 conditional commutation;

3. for 1997-1998: 20 pardons, 4 commutations; and

4. 1995-1996: 21 pardons, 1 partial pardon, 6 commutations.


In the last 36 years, West Virginia governors granted 121 full pardons and 200 conditional pardons (the person may return to custody for violating conditions). Governors granted 641 reprieves since 1970, postponing or shortening incarceration. It is not known how many commutations to shorten sentences or temporary releases were granted (“Wise Tackles Inmates' Petitions,” Charleston Daily Main, December 28, 2004).


Alan Brittle, restoration of rights director for the Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth, stated that during Governor Warner's term (from his inauguration on January 12, 2002 until January 10, 2005), he has:

1. granted 1,971 requests for restoration of rights out of 2,367 requests and

2. granted 12 pardons (granting official forgiveness but not restoring rights) out of 501 requests.