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Clemency

Clemency is mercy or leniency. Clemency usually refers to executive clemency. Executive clemency is the power that the president or governor has to grant a pardon, amnesty and commute (decrease the length of) the sentences of individuals who have been convicted of crimes. In California, any prisoner can request a commutation of his or her sentence from the Governor.

The prisoner must complete an Application for Executive Clemency and send a Notice of Intention to Apply for Executive Clemency to the District Attorney of every jurisdiction in which he or she has been convicted of a felony. The formal application with the receipts from the notices must then be submitted to the Governor's office, which then refers the matter to the Board of Prison Terms (BPT). The BPT conducts an investigation, and if the executive board of the BPT recommends commutation, the Governor can decide whether to grant the commutation.

An individual can also apply for a Governor's pardon. The applicant must have been discharged from probation or parole for at least ten years and cannot have engaged in criminal activity during that time. California is unusual because if the applicant has been convicted of two or more felonies in separate proceedings, the Governor's grant of clemency must be approved by a majority of the California Supreme Court justices. When clemency is granted, it becomes part of the public record.