147 Illinoisans (and their families) have one more thing to celebrate this holiday weekend: Governor Pat Quinn's granting of their Petitions for Clemency. Yesterday, Governor Quinn decided on 407 Petitions -- granting 147 and denying the rest -- he also authorized the court to expunge two people's records who had received a pardon from a previous Governor without the authorization to destroy the court record.
According to pardon guru, P.S. Ruckman, Jr., the timing of Quinn's decisions on Good Friday wasn't a coincidence:
Of course, another way to look at it is that Quinn is doing the Throwback Governor routine. Indeed, there was a time when Governor's exercised clemency on a more regular basis and were especially expected to do so around Christmas and Easter.
Given the history of the pardon, Quinn's timing to execute the pardons on a religious holiday makes perfect sense as the word "pardon" is a God-like act, deriving from the Bible:
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. Micah 7:18
Today, the pardon power remains an exclusive power of the Governor; it is enumerated in each state's Constitution; thus, it is a duty and obligation each state's Governor to perform such an extraordinary remedy. (The President has the exclusive power to grant pardons for federal offenses.)
Since Governor Quinn was sworn into office on January 29, 2009, he has decided on 769 Petitions, granting a total of 321 Petitions. He still has a lot more to go: Blagojevich left 1800 behind when he was kicked out of office. (In 2007, Governor Blagojevich granted just one pardon!) Plus, Governor Quinn has his own pile, making the total pending Petitions to be around 2450, according to a spokesman in the Governor's office.
Governor Quinn is using his exclusive power to the benefit of the most deserving people, granting almost 42% of the Petitions thus far.
Our society brands the felon with a Scarlet Letter for the rest of his or her lifetime. Essentially, once a felon, always a felon. This is wrong. This is not forgiveness. This is not mercy.
Yes, people must understand that consequences come with illegal acts. But every person who was convicted of a crime, was sentenced and served a sentence, whether probation or prison. A lifetime punishment is harmful to society as a whole.
Rehabilitation must be encouraged in our society. The kid who gets caught selling dope at 18-years old should not be labeled a "convicted felon" for the rest of his life if he can prove he is a contributing member of society. If he has gone to school, purchased a home, raised a family, why should he continue to be punished?
A pardon gives the deserving person an opportunity to remove the "convicted felon" tattoo. The pardon allows for the deserving person to apply for a better job so that he or she can support his family. Rehabilitation must be rewarded.
Thank you, Governor Quinn, for using your exclusive power to give the most deserving people another chance to contribute to society. Sure, with a pardon comes the risk of political backlash. But, the reward to the person, to his family and to our society as a whole is far greater than any opponent's attack on your decision.