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February 3, 2009

Taking stock of President George W. Bush's clemency record

Though perhaps not providing the truly final word on the clemency efforts of our 43rd president, former Pardon Attorney Margaret Love has created (and allowed me to post) a terrific review of President George W. Bush's clemency record.  Here are snippets of her effort, which can be downloaded in full below:

The final figures on President Bush’s clemency record establish that he granted fewer pardons and commutations than any two-term president since Thomas Jefferson, and fewer per term than any full-term president since John Adams, with the exception of his father. Statistically, he is tied with his father for the lowest favorable grant rate for pardon petitions (9.8%), and his grant rate for commutations barely registers (.012%). While he pardoned fairly regularly through out his two terms, 76 of his 189 pardons and seven of his eleven commutations were granted in his final year.

President Bush received more clemency petitions than any president since FDR (not counting petitions received pursuant to general grants of amnesty), and he denied more. In eight years, he denied almost 7500 commutation and 1800 pardon requests, three times the number denied by Bill Clinton....

The disappointing shortage of grants at the end of President Bush’s term, like the torrent of irregular pardoning at the end of Clinton’s, is traceable to a chronically dysfunctional pardon advisory system, dominated by the perspective of prosecutors, which can take years to process an application and produces very few favorable recommendations.  The difference in the end-games for the two presidents is attributable to their very different personal inclinations to dispense forgiveness. But neither president was well-served by a Justice Department whose pardon office has become a place where petitions for presidential mercy go to die. If President Obama wants to make the most of his constitutional pardon power as an instrument of government, he will have to ensure that there is a strong and independent program for administering it, with a staff committed to the enterprise and the resources necessary to carry it out.

Download Margy Love's Bush Pardons Profile

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February 3, 2009 at 09:15 AM | Permalink


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Why should POTUS be compelled to grant
clemency at all? Just because a
convicted felon completes his sentence
does not mean he is entitled to clemency.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | Feb 3, 2009 5:24:22 PM

It is called compassion Large County Prosecutor! Believe it or not there people who deserve second chances.

Posted by: Tarheel | Feb 3, 2009 7:42:30 PM

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