Thursday, September 26, 2013

Perry ignores most recommendations for clemency from Board of Pardons and Paroles

A friend of the blog is giving a presentation tomorrow on the topic of executive pardons in Texas, so Grits updated my running chart of executive clemency decisions in the Rick-Perry era to include data from FY 2011 and 2012. Here it is:

So far, Gov. Rick Perry has granted about one out of every 33 clemency requests received by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles since he took office in 2001. By contrast, as president, George W. Bush granted clemency to one out of every 55 applicants during his two terms; for Barack Obama, the figure so far is one out of 239, Peter Ruckman at the Pardon Power blog reported in August. Ronald Reagan, by contrast, granted one out of every eight clemency petitions received during his tenure. For Richard Nixon, it was one out of three.

One aspect of these Texas data Grits finds fascinating: The large number (416) of applicants for whom the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended clemency but the Governor did not grant it. That happened in a whopping 67% of cases in which the board recommended mercy over those 12 years. It would make quite an interesting analysis for some reporter or academic to examine in greater detail cases in which the BPP - who are all Perry appointees and by no means bleeding heart liberals - recommended granting clemency but the Governor denied it. Texas' parole board has a well-earned reputation as a bunch of hard-asses, but they appear more inclined to mercy than the politician who appointed them.

America's Founding Fathers viewed clemency as an essential check on legislative and judicial overreach, one that's been emasculated beyond recognition in the last quarter-century. Perhaps that's attributable to infamous cases like Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon or Bill Clinton's pardon of a prominent campaign contributor on his way out the door. Or maybe, in this hyper-punitive era of mass incarceration, where the United States has less than 5% of the world population but 25% of its prisoners, the values of forgiveness and mercy simply have fallen out of fashion.

Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist Paper #74 that without "easy access" to clemency, "justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel." Who doubts that outcome is precisely what's represented by the data in the chart above?


Anonymous said...

Dang, Grits, you make becoming a criminal sound almost patriotic! With that said, I don't think today's breed of murderer, child molester, drug dealer, etc. is exactly what Hamilton had in mind. I do think there's a political component associated with the use of executive clemency for criminals. In most instances, it's not popular with the citizenry and there's sometimes the risk that the criminal will reoffend. Ultimately though, I suspect that most chief executives rightly believe that judges and juries are in a much better position to determine what the appropriate sentence is for the convicted criminal--which they are.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

2:43, that would be Alexander Hamilton making clemency (not "becoming a criminal" - what an assholish red herring) seem patriotic, I was just quoting him.

Your fantasy that bad people didn't exist in the 18th century just like today is pure foolishness, but by all means embrace it if it helps you sleep at night. Still, I defy you to find Hamilton or any other constitutional framer offering the sort of caveats re: pardon power that you're promoting. Except you can't. Yours is a modern view that the Framers would have found utterly alien. They believed in balancing powers of the executive, judiciary and legislature and the pardon power was considered a principal check on legislative and judicial excesses in criminal law.

Quite a few conservatives are coming to the same conclusions. Hamilton wrote Federalist #74 at a time when not a single prison existed in the entire country (the first was in PA decades later). There's little doubt he and the rest of the Framers would be appalled at the modern era of mass incarceration, even if you like it because it pays your bills.

Prison Doc said...

I have never understood this on any level. You have the most conservative of governors and the most radically liberal of presidents yet you end up with the same result.

Since I spend my days around many young men serving sentences for what I call "bullshit crimes"--felon in possession of a firearm, "evading arrest", possession with [unlikely] intent to distribute--whose lives we are not rehabilitating but instead are permanently ruining with each passing day--I get a pretty hopeless feeling and wonder why I am still working in such a senseless system.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know if any type of financial renumeration (campaign donations from family members, connections to major donors, etc.) had any impact in those few actually granted.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that Perry "ignores" the recommendations rather than after due consideration, chooses not to follow the recommendations?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:30, I can't get inside the guy's head, it's true. But these days Perry picks a symbolic few pardons around Christmastime and otherwise appears oblivious to his clemency duties by all outward appearances.

Anonymous said...

You closed minded people shoould listen to prison doc.He's lived it.
Its gonna take prison doc,me,da's judges and law enforcment and everyone else to turn this losing ship around.Most people like to think its just thier job and its not thier problem.Im glad Prison Doc has the intelligence to know better.

Anonymous said...

Great post Grits!

I've been waiting a while for someone to notice the discrepancy between the recommendations of conservative Perry appointees and Perry's decision to ignore those recommendations most of the time.

The point Prison Doc makes about ruining people's lives rather than rehabilitating those lives is certainly true, and it does not take a genius to figure out that judges and prosecutors sometimes get carried away, especially in counties where they are rewarded financially and politically for getting carried away.

I see the craziest results come out of some of the courthouses, and since there are so few instances where the BPP actually thinks the result was absurd, compared to the many, many more that were just as absurd, one would think the Gov. would go along with the people HE put in charge.

Anonymous said...

i agree with prison doc it is a senseless system,throwing people in prison why not help these people? instead they are locked up and forgot about all texas is doing making it worse for them & family!!

Anonymous said...

And, it took a GFB Posting to bring some into the light regarding the smoke & mirror illusion.

The Smoke - Governor is allowed to cherry pick his Team. (results in protecting both the R’s & D’s buddies in the D.As’ office(s) depending on who is in the chair)

The Mirror - the BPP is instructed to make it appear from the outside that they are actually performing their due diligence by presenting a fraction as worthy while knowing that a fraction of that will be considered and / or Agreed upon.

The Illusion - this office will not vett 'Packages' where the 'Applicant' files for a Full Pardon - based on / for actual innocence claims, despite the amount of supportive evidence the 'Applicant' purchases from the District clerk's
Office (ex: Police Incident Report, Color Police Photo, Certified Case files, etc...)

The Joke – it’s on you & I, the taxpayers (as if you didn’t know it)

Anonymous said...

Yo dip-shit AKA: 2:43PM, looks like Grits put your old ass in your spot again. You'd think one has had enough spanking by now but you just keep coming.

You forgot to call everyone a criminal or criminal lover, but that's what happens to old farts (maybe next time). The reason why we know that you are too old to get it is that you give yourself away every single time. It's just the way you roll or was it blow. That's how you make a living and knothing is going to change that stinking thinking.

You don't speak for the "citizenry", you speak for your title, position & the R's that you cherry pick for juries trials. If Punk-ass Perry was a D, you'd be all up in this posting in a different light, of course.

Your last sentence is absurd but goes to show that you guys stick together no matter what. You did however share one tiny truth - That being, murders and child molesters should never ever rec . a Full Pardon – for / based on innocence ‘unless’, they can prove that they were innocent. The only way to know if they are innocent or not is to thoroughly re-investigate the claimants Application and any & all of the materials attached.

Anonymous said...

Better off, we could just do away with the BPP and let University Legal clinics (that Do Not accept political donations) perform Full Pardon for / based on Innocence vetting services (for a Flat Fee) and eliminate the Regular Full Pardon. Therefore, when a Governor awards a Full Pardon in Texas it’s based on the facts – presented by a Team of students that publish their works annually.

Anyone see why we the taxpayers' should keep 7 members (good ol boys & girls) and their clueless support staff on the payroll? When a Department (or Office) is found to be incompetent, or unwilling to perform basic duties in order to fulfill their job description based on political gain, we must consider elimination.

Doing the same ol same ol decade after decade is Insane.

Anonymous said...


Twitch said...

S.H. - Can I access that chart from the title you've got above it?
I can't cut 'n paste it (block?) to a doc along with your piece - to bad I missed that presentation sounded like a good one.

Working with some people on their paroles expected sometime in December(31st?)The Obama figures are worse than I expected or rather rumored.

Central Texas ABC

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Twitch, here's a link to the version on Google Docs.

Twitch said...

AHHH, I see, a spreadsheet and can't be altered second generation like that I guess - thanks I got it

gracias - Twitch

Your "challenge image isn't fabricating below...