CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Article Spotlight: The Political Roots of Executive Clemency

Georgia political scientist Andrew B. Whitford and Kansas political scientist Holonna L. Ochs posted an empirical study called The Political Roots of Executive Clemency to SSRN.  The abstract: It is a widespread conventional wisdom that presidential pardons - the only way for offenders to remove or eliminate all disabilities that arise from a federal or military offense - are political. We move beyond this belief and assess the relative contribution of the president's own policy agenda, other policy agendas present in the separated powers system, and external social conditions on the president's dispensation of federal pardons. We estimate a time series model of the president's aggregate dispensation of clemency appeals (requests for pardons) and find that the probability of denials for executive clemency reflects the president's own agenda and ideological position. We show that evidence appearing to support direct effects of Congressional attention to criminal justice issues and the homicide rate is spurious. In sum, while the president dispenses pardons as part of a system of separated powers, how he exercises this unilateral power depends mostly on his own policy positions. Paper here:

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