Governor Expected to Pardon Youthful Offenders

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that he will issue pardons in favor of thousands of convicted individuals. The announcement comes as a surprise to many, who view the governor as being particularly stingy when it comes to granting clemency to those convicted of criminal offenses. In fact, during his first three years in office, he granted only three pardons, all for relatively minor offenses. Compare that record with other states, and you will probably agree with those who believe the power of granting a pardon has been underutilized in New York. For example, in California, Governor Jerry Brown granted over 125 pardons in a single month; and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn granted over 1,000 pardons in four years.

Whatever past policies in the New York Governor’s office may have been, things are apparently going to change, at least for a specific group of ex-offenders. Governor Cuomo says that he will pardon thousands who have been convicted as teenagers and whose records have been clean since that time. Specifically, the state will seek out for possible pardons those who were convicted ten or more years ago of nonviolent offenses, the convictions coming when the individuals were 16 and 17 years of age.

As of today, there may be 10,000 people who qualify for the pardons, and an additional 350 ex-offenders are added to the list each year, as they pass the 10-year mark since they were convicted.

The move by the governor comes at a time when there has been significant resistance in the state legislature to reforming the juvenile justice system. At the same time, proponents of reform note that New York is one of only two states in the entire country that treat 16-year olds and 17-year olds as adults in criminal court.

While a pardon does not expunge the criminal record, it can provide relief from some of the collateral consequences of a conviction, such as being barred from certain occupations.

One final note. The fact that you fit within the general parameters of the governor’s announcement does not guarantee that you will receive a pardon. There will be a “vetting process” to determine whether the individual is a productive member of the community. The final determination will be made on a case-by-case basis.

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