A few months after a series of newspaper reports showed that black federal prisoners were much less likely to receive presidential pardons, the federal government is launching a study to look into the pardons process.

The Justice Department is calling on proposals for data collection and reporting for the study. "The purpose of this program is to examine how petitions for pardon are adjudicated by the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney," according to an outline of the study.

A full pardon reverts the convicted person's legal status back to before the crime. The federal office of the pardon attorney looks into pardon applications and makes recommendations to the president.

The purpose of the study, the outline said, is to "test the primary hypothesis that all other things being equal African Americans and other minorities are less likely to progress in the pardon adjudication process than applicants of other races." It will look at the pardon applications submitted between October 1, 2001 and April 30, 2012. The study will not focus on those cases in which a convict's sentence was merely reduced.

The Washington Post and ProPublica series, called "Shades of Mercy," found that white applicants for federal pardons were almost four times as likely to be pardoned of their crimes than minority applicants. It also found that married applicants and those with backing from members of Congress fared especially well in having their pardons granted.

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