The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant clemency, including in the form of a pardon or commutation. A clemency grant recognizes a person’s subsequent efforts in self-development. It does not forgive or minimize the harm caused by the crime.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities, and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
The commutation grants will allow the inmates to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which the Parole Commissioners determine whether the inmate is suitable for release from prison.
These clemency grants were in progress before the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to the public safety and justice factors that the Governor normally considers when reviewing clemency cases, he also considered the public health impact of each grant, as well as each inmate’s individual health status and the suitability of their post-release plans, including housing.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, and correct unjust results in the legal system.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community.