• The San Juan Daily Star

Governor creates advisory group on granting executive clemency

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced on Monday that he signed Executive Order 2021-083, which creates the Advisory Committee on Executive Clemency. The committee, which will respond directly to the governor, sets substantive and procedural guidelines to be followed for the evaluation.

“Establishing guidelines will have the effect of covering the process of evaluation and granting of executive clemency for uniformity, security, impartiality and transparency. With the implemented measures, rigorous analysis of executive clemency requests is provided and there is greater certainty that each of the cases before my consideration will be evaluated using the analysis that considers all the elements, as well as all the necessary data for making an informed and adequate determination,” the governor argued in the executive order, in which he establishes that public policy will be to grant the privilege as an act of compassion focused on promoting the rehabilitation of the petitioners.

Likewise, Pierluisi stressed that the applicable standard will be to demonstrate extraordinary and unusual circumstances that demonstrate conditions or characteristics of rehabilitation or innocence.

The governor stressed that the creation of the committee and its recommendations do not undermine the constitutional powers granted to a sitting governor to alter or commute judicial decisions, reduce the penalty and grant executive clemency. Those powers are exclusive, absolute, unlimited and cannot be interrupted, abolished or limited by any legislative or judicial action, he said.

The committee will be chaired by the governor’s legal adviser and will be made up of personnel from the governor’s office, among others that may be designated. As part of the work, along with the Community Program of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and the Parole Board, committee members will receive, process and supervise everything related to the granting of executive clemency.

General guidelines and rules

It follows from the executive order that, as a general rule, a full pardon should not be granted as a first option to incarcerated persons who have not had the opportunity to demonstrate their rehabilitation. Instead, clemency should be for people who have served the entirety of their sentence and have demonstrated the ability to maintain good behavior. In other words, the pardon will apply to people who have been released or who have completed any diversion or rehabilitation program. However, in the case of incarcerated persons, the pardon will proceed “exceptionally” when in the opinion of the governor the sentence is considered totally unjust.

In addition, the person requesting clemency must not have pending criminal charges, arrest warrants, protection orders, sanctions or any pecuniary responsibility as a result of a criminal conviction, among other restrictions.

Around the requirements for people who request commutations and condonations of sentences after having begun to serve the sentence, as a general rule it should apply to inmates who do not enjoy the benefit of being in other community reintegration programs or probation. In the case of people who are on parole, they must have served one calendar year since the privilege was granted and have not had disciplinary reprimands in prison institutions during the past three calendar years. Also, their conviction or sentence must not be contested and they must not be in maximum custody.

Likewise, applications will be rigorously evaluated with additional established evaluation criteria. However, the governor clarified that complying with all of those requirements does not guarantee the granting of clemency, and failure to meet one or more of the criteria does not prevent its granting.

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