Chapter VII

Tips on Submitting Effective Clemency Petitions


What is the Board Looking for?

• Emphasize the length of time your client has spent in prison. Board members want to feel that any action they take is not too radical or controversial.


• Emphasize that the client will be moving into a stable supportive environment if she is granted clemency. Include information about where she will live, how she will support herself, and who is included in her support network on the outside.


• Consider mentioning the fact that other governors and parole boards in other states have granted clemency. Cite specific examples.


Tips on Writing and Organization

• Include an introductory paragraph or section in which you lay out the strongest part of your petition up front. For example, one woman who recently submitted a petition for clemency graduated summa cum laude from Western Michigan University while in prison. Another woman's sentencing judge specifically stated that he hoped the Parole Board would commute her sentence. Do not hide facts like these in the middle of the petitions.


• Be concise.


• Use clear headings to organize and separate your arguments.


• If there is clearly documented evidence of abuse, consider presenting it in table format to achieve maximum dramatic effect. For example:


7/1/70 Dan found on top of Paula with his hands around her neck.; Smith Affidavit, Ex. 1
11/23/72 Dan beats Paula so badly that she has contusions all over her body. Cook County Hospital Records, Ex. 2
10/3/75 Crisis Center overhears abuse and calls police. Support Service Records, Ex. 4
4/4/73 Dan violates restraining order. He is arrested for punching hand through window. Detroit, MI





• Include letters of support from prison administrators, work supervisors, religious leaders, educators, and social workers.


• Include police and hospital records documenting abuse.


• Include affidavits from friends, family members, or domestic violence workers who witnessed the abuse, or had first hand knowledge of it.



• Use it! Clemency is intensely political, and our ability to sway public opinion may be our best hope of success.


• Consider:

• Editorials

• A press conference

• Bar journal articles

• Lectures in the community, at law schools, and undergraduate institutions

• Press releases (contact PRNewswire at 800-697-9712)