What are the Best Tips for Applying for a Pardon?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 08 May 2019
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Applying for a pardon is a complex and lengthy process. It is important to follow directions to make sure the pardon is properly prepared, and there are a few things people can include in a pardon application to increase the chances of success. While it is possible to apply for a pardon alone, it helps to have the assistance of an attorney or advocate, preferably one who is familiar with the system. People seeking pardons can contact legal aid organizations, as well as groups interested in prisoner welfare to get information about assistance.

The procedure varies considerably, depending on jurisdiction and crime. The first step in applying for a pardon involves reading the directions carefully to determine what needs to be done and where the pardon application should be sent. Detailed directions usually include a list of items people should include in a pardon application, and people should start gathering things like criminal records, school records, and so forth to have them ready.

In a pardon, people request formal forgiveness for a crime. They are not seeking exoneration, but freedom from prison or a revision of a sentence. People applying for a pardon need to provide supporting information to argue their cases, demonstrating that offering a pardon will confer some benefits and will not endanger society. Prisoners can express regret for the crime in the application and show evidence of remorse and reform, such as pursuing college degrees while incarcerated, mentoring other prisoners, and other activities.


It also helps to have letters of support from people on the outside. While applying for a pardon, prisoners can solicit supportive letters from people in their past, like teachers and family members. Sometimes, a victim's family may support an application for pardon, depending on the circumstances, and supportive letters from them can be very valuable. Letters from prison officials and guards can demonstrate a commitment to change and back up documentation offering proof of good behavior in prison.

People applying for a pardon can personalize the application, providing information about their lives, the extenuating circumstances leading to the crime, and other materials to support their claim. Offering a compelling reason to pardon a prisoner rather than allowing her to serve out a full sentence is important, as officials in charge of pardons need to be able to justify their decisions. Timing can also be important; election years are not a good time to request pardons, for instance, as elected officials do not want to appear soft on crime.


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