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Justice - Ohio Governor's Expedited Pardon Project
Ohio Governor's Expedited Pardon Project

A felony conviction can lead to a lifetime of consequences, but Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s Expedited Pardon Project gives citizens living upstanding post-conviction lives a second chance for better opportunities.

“I believe those who’ve committed certain felony offenses in the past and have gone on to lead good lives deserve better. They should not pay for their mistakes their entire lives.”

– Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

Governor DeWine created the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project in December 2019 as an alternative to the traditional clemency application process which is consistently bogged down with pardon requests from those who have not been rehabilitated. This delays the process for those who have reformed their lives or discourages them from applying altogether.

Exclusively for certain reformed ex-offenders, the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project to give qualifying applicants one-on-one application assistance and allows them to bypass the waitlist for pardon consideration.  With help from the University of Akron School of Law and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, the project accelerates the application processing time to months as opposed to the typical wait time of one to two years.

Why Apply for a Pardon?

Simply put, felony convictions limit post-release opportunities. Job prospects are limited, volunteer options are restricted, and the stigma of a felony conviction never fully fades. For those who have lived law-abiding post-conviction lives, a pardon can open many doors that have been firmly closed.

  • A pardon may open up different opportunities for employment that were otherwise prohibited such as certain healthcare and teaching positions.
  • A pardon restores your ability to volunteer in certain settings such as a younger family member’s sports team.
  • A pardon restores your ability to hold public office such as city council or school board.
  • A pardon may restore the ability to legally possess a firearm.
  • A pardon affirms the positive changes you’ve made in your life.

Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project Qualification Requirements

To qualify for the accelerated, one-on-one clemency application assistance offered through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, applicants must meet certain minimum requirements.

Minimum Requirements

Due to the violent and heinous nature of certain crimes, those convicted of one or more of the charges below are disqualified from participating in the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project. Disqualified individuals can, however, seek a potential pardon through the traditional clemency application process.

Disqualifying Offenses

Aggravated Murder

Murder

Rape

Sexual Battery

Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor

Gross Sexual Imposition

Sexual Imposition Pandering Obscenity with a Minor

Pandering Sexually Oriented Material Involving a Minor

Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity-Oriented Material or Performance

Felonious Sexual Penetration

Kidnapping

Abduction

Terrorism

Importuning 

Compelling Prostitution

Promoting Prostitution

Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles

Pandering Obscenity

Deception to Obtain Matter Harmful to Juveniles

Human Trafficking

Domestic Violence 

 

Those not convicted of an aforementioned charge may apply for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project if they also have met all of the following requirements:

  • No felony or misdemeanor convictions in the last 10 years, excluding minor traffic violations
  • All sentence requirements completed before the 10-year period (probation, community control, post-release control, or parole)
  • Good-faith efforts made to meet all requirements of sentencing, such as the payment of fines or restitution
  • A post-offense employment history or a compelling reason for unemployment
  • Demonstrated efforts to give back to the community, such as a history of volunteer work or non-court ordered community service

Application Process

Those who believe that they qualify for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project may apply to be considered for the project at ohioexpeditedpardon.org/how-to-apply.

WATCH: A step-by-step review of eligibility criteria and how to apply for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project

Steps to Apply

1. Submit the required intake forms and the results of an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation background check

2. Those who meet the minimum requirements will be assisted in gathering information and documents needed to complete the applicant's full clemency application

  • Assistance is provided by law students at the Drug Enforcement Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and/or the Reentry Clinic at The University of Akron

3. An expedited hearing is set by the Ohio Parole Board upon confirmation of the completed application and current eligibility

  • Applicants who no longer meet the expedited criteria may proceed via the traditional route for a pardon
  • Ohio Parole Board meetings for the Expedited Pardon Project are typically held within a few months after the final application is accepted, including a 60-day notice period for the court and victims
  • The board typically makes a recommendation for or against a pardon on the same day as the hearing

4. Based on the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, the Ohio Governor will make his final decision to grant or deny a pardon.

More in-depth, step-by-step details on the application and parole board hearing process can be found at ohioexpeditedpardon.org/how-does-it-work.

Begin the application process now at www.ohioexpeditedpardon.org.

Virtual Workshops

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project team is available to host question and answer sessions for individual agencies or the broader community. Contact us at pardonproject@governor.ohio.gov to learn more about hosting a virtual workshop.

WATCH: Ohio Governor's Expedited Pardon Project Panel Event - January 22, 2021

Stories of Ohio Pardon Recipients

Whether you’re considering applying for a pardon through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project or the traditional process, a pardon can open you up to more opportunities. Here are some examples of those who were pardoned in Ohio after reforming their lives post-conviction.

Dr. Patrice Palmer, Pardoned 2018

Julia Brinksneader, Editor/Writer, Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

For 20 years, an Ohio mom rotated in and out of the criminal justice system. Driven by the fog and hunger of substance use disorder, Patrice Palmer racked up seven felonies and served time in prison for theft and drug-related nonviolent crimes.

Her life turned around when she received treatment for her addiction and depression, helping her to put her life back together. As years passed, she graduated from college, started her career, and led a crime-free, drug-free life. She wanted to seek a pardon so she could pursue a license in social work but found the clemency process in 2017 to be a time-consuming, complex maze.

After an arduous process, she ultimately received a pardon in 2018 and is encouraged by Governor Mike DeWine’s Expedited Pardon Project, which simplifies Ohio’s clemency process for certain rehabilitated citizens who have consistently demonstrated that they’ve become contributing members of society.

Here is Patrice Palmer’s story:

 

Enduring a cycle of ‘dysfunctional living’

Patrice Palmer knows what it is like to be in the grip of addiction and driven to desperation.

“My background pretty much comes from 20 years of dysfunctional living: drug addiction, domestic violence, not being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and not really addressing those issues,” she said. “I became tied up — tangled and twisted into criminal activities in order to have the money to supply my drug addiction.”

Then, in 2003, Palmer had what she calls an “aha moment.” Her brother visited her at the Ohio Reformatory for Women and told her how her children were falling apart because of her absence.

“I thought about my choices and my decisions in life and how they were affecting these little people that I said I loved,” Palmer said.

She vowed to make a change. Palmer asked the prison staff for help and, when her sentence ended, she entered a treatment center in Cincinnati to address her addiction and depression.

 

Looking for a fresh start

After completing treatment, a determined Palmer started over. She worked two jobs and immersed herself in college classes, eventually earning a master’s degree from The Ohio State University, as well as three other degrees, including a doctorate in divinity and theology.

Palmer began working in the Franklin County Office of Homeland Security & Justice Programs which works to assist returning citizens with the reentry process by connecting them to resources and decided to seek a pardon from then-Governor John Kasich, so she could pursue her license in social work.

Soon, she became discouraged by the complicated process. Palmer found she couldn’t get past the first step because she didn’t have an original copy of a 20-year-old court record. Palmer’s quest to receive the needed document eventually involved her boss at Homeland Security, Director Kathy Crandall, Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown, and the commissioner’s aide at the time, Michael Daniels.

In the end, Palmer and her team put together a 139-page pardon packet, which included her criminal record as well as support letters, commendations, and training certificates.

“Finally, after a year, I was able to submit that paperwork, and that's when another long process began,” Palmer said.

Everything had to be reviewed, and then, at the end, she had to face the parole board.

“I was kind of nervous,” she said. “All of my crimes were low-level offenses and drug-related and here I am going to go before a parole board. I had only heard horrible things about the parole board.”

 

Experiencing an epiphany

Palmer arrived at the hearing cloaked in success and surrounded by more than a dozen friends, family, and co-workers offering support, but her past was laid bare and she felt humiliated.

“I came before this board with a 15-year history of what I have done,” she said. “All the programs I had done, all the college degrees, all these things that I had done to get my life back together, to get my life on track.”

“I just started crying,” Palmer added. “Commissioner Brown held my hand and she said, ‘Just breathe.’ And it was at that moment that I thought … maybe I can be the voice for other people who need to come here and other people who need to apply for a pardon.”

After a year and a half climb uphill, Palmer’s efforts paid off. On the eve of Thanksgiving 2018, she found that her pardon had been approved.

“I was on my way to Kansas, to my son's for Thanksgiving, and I had to pull over to cry. … It was something I didn’t think I would ever get,” she said. “I felt I deserved a second chance. I thought I deserved to rewind what I have done wrong.”

 

Excited about the pardon project

After struggling to receive her pardon, Palmer was thrilled to learn about Governor Mike DeWine’s project to expedite the process for certain former criminal offenders.

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project simplifies Ohio’s clemency process for rehabilitated citizens who have consistently demonstrated that they have become contributing members of society.

Upon announcing the project pilot in December 2019, DeWine said, “There are decent people all over Ohio who made poor choices decades ago, were convicted of crimes, and completed their sentences — but they continue to pay for their past every day. Despite serving their sentences and becoming good, law-abiding citizens, their criminal records continue to limit their opportunities. I believe these individuals should have a better chance to thrive.”

Key to the process are the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and the Reentry Clinic of the University of Akron School of Law, whose law students screen potential pardon candidates to ensure that they meet the project’s requirements and provide free assistance to those candidates along the way.

The universities submit the information gathered to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for extensive background checks.

After passing the background checks, the candidates get help from the students in putting together their pardon applications for submission to the parole board.

Palmer is encouraged by the program.

“I wish I had that kind of help when I was doing this process,” she said. “When I think about this project and what Governor DeWine and his administration are doing through this expedited program, I think it's amazing. I think that it gives people hope.

“When you can instill a level of hope in people that have made poor choices or decisions in life — and pull out of them their purpose to give back to society — that creates a stronger person, a stronger family, a stronger community.”

 

Encouraging others to apply

Palmer knows the value of a pardon and encourages others to work toward that goal.

“Obtaining a Governor’s pardon was important for me because it told me that I have a forgiveness from the highest level of government in the state of Ohio,” she said.

Palmer was able to pursue the professional license she needed to meet her career goals, plus three more, and no longer feels held back by her past.

Today, Palmer continues her work for Franklin County in the Office of Homeland Security & Justice Programs and also is a social and criminal justice advocate for Chosen4Change, which she founded to educate others about mass Incarceration and to enhance the quality of life of individuals in need.

“Yes, I have a criminal record,” she said, “but, I can also say I have a Governor's pardon.”

She has advice to others who are being held back by their past.

“If you meet the requirement to apply for this pardon, you should do it,” she said. “You should go for it. Take the risk. It’s going to make you feel better about yourself. It is going to speak volumes to your family, to your community, to the people around you. It will give you opportunities to obtain a different license that you may not be able to obtain having that felony record. And it is going to give you hope. It can be done!”

For information about the program, or to apply for a pardon, visit OhioExpeditedPardon.org.

James Earl Young, Pardoned 2019

Dayton man pardoned by DeWine says ‘Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing’

Laura A. Bischoff, Columbus Bureau

Dayton Daily News

December 2, 2019

This Thanksgiving, Dayton native James E. Young is grateful for an extraordinary gift from Gov. Mike DeWine: a full pardon.

“It’s been a journey and I’m so grateful to Gov. DeWine that I was selected. I mean, it’s a game changer for my life,” Young said this week. “It is an honor and I’m so very humbled for this opportunity. I truly believe that it’s bigger than what I think at this particular moment. I know God has big plans for me and I hope I can continue to be worthy of this.”

Young, 60, is the first — and so far only Ohioan — pardoned by DeWine.

The son of two Dayton Public School teachers, Young’s life slid off track in 1989 when he began selling cocaine during a stretch of unemployment. He got caught in an undercover sting.

Convicted of drug trafficking charges in December 1989, Young lost an appeal and served time in prison from 1991 to 1998.

Young found ways to make doing time a positive experience: he taught GED classes, created a life skills class and volunteered to read and write letters for inmates who were illiterate.

“I was able to learn about myself. I was able to sit there and dream again and become hungry and motivated and believing in myself again,” Young said. “You know what, it’s not where you started, it’s where you finish.”

He was released from parole in 1999 and he hasn’t even gotten a traffic ticket since then, records show.

“Well, when you’ve lost everything and embarrassed yourself and your family and you know that was never who you were to begin with all you want to do is do good,” Young said.

Shortly after being released from parole, Young moved to Atlanta where he found work, rebuilt his life and tried to give back. Several times a year, he speaks to jail and prison inmates.

“Motivational speaking, if you will. I give them my testimony of how this happened to me and how I overcame this and that this does not have to be your future,” Young said. “You can be one and done. It’s all about choices and decisions.”

In Ohio, Young held a license as a mortgage loan originator. But his felony conviction blocked him from obtaining the same license in Georgia. Georgia state officials told Young he should apply for a pardon in Ohio.

Young said he didn’t even know governor’s had the power to pardon — he thought it was something presidents did at the end of their terms.

The Ohio Constitution authorizes the governor to issue commutations or pardons. A commutation lessens the punishment for a crime and a pardon wipes it off the offender’s record.

The governor is required to wait until the Ohio Parole Board makes a recommendation before deciding a clemency request. In the first six months of 2019, the Parole Board reviewed 164 clemency requests – 76 commutations, 86 pardons, 1 reprieve and 1 death row case. The board was in favor of clemency in four of those cases, including Young’s.

DeWine said he granted the pardon after looking at Young’s clean record after prison, his need for professional licensing and the Parole Board’s unanimous recommendation.

“You have to look at the totality of the circumstances and you kind of look at your gut instinct and go with that. It made sense to grant him this pardon and continue in his career,” DeWine said.

The governor said in the coming weeks, he’ll be deciding more of the 400 pending clemency requests and next week he’ll hold a press conference on the matter of pardons.

Young, now a father of three grown daughters and six grandchildren, said he wants to make the most of this second chance by returning to the mortgage loan industry, publishing his poems, speaking to prisoners and being a positive light for others.

“I think that everybody should have the opportunity to be redeemed, to be forgiven,” Young said. “I believe that the majority are not perfect people, and so many people have done things and never got caught. For those who got in trouble, you take advantage of your second chance because you’ve been given a great opportunity and a responsibility. First of all, to prove that they did not make a mistake by giving you that second chance and to share your knowledge, your experience. You learn as much from failure as you do from success.”

He added: “My job is to continue to be a positive light to others and encourage everybody to never stop dreaming, no matter how old, no matter how young, no matter how the obstacles stack up against you. Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing.”

Pardon Project Partners

Primary Partners

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project is one of Governor DeWine’s priority initiatives for Ohio. The Ohio State University and the University of Akron are key partners in reviewing expedited pardon requests and assisting applicants who qualify.

 

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center | The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) focuses on promoting and supporting interdisciplinary, evidence-based research, scholarship, education, community outreach, and public engagement on the myriad issues and societal impacts surrounding the reform of criminal and civil laws prohibiting or regulating the use and distribution of traditionally illicit drugs. The DEPC examines the impact of modern drug laws, policies, and enforcement on personal freedoms and human well-being, giving particularized and sustained attention to analyzing the rapid evolution of marijuana laws and the impacts of state-level reform efforts.

 

Reentry Clinic | The University of Akron School of Law

The University of Akron School of Law’s Reentry Clinic assists clients with remedies to ameliorate the impact of their convictions including pardons, court sealings, human trafficking expungement, and Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE). The clinic provides valuable experience for Akron Law students seeking to make a difference in society, whether they intend to pursue a career in the public or private sector. Since its creation in 2013, the clinic has served an estimated 7,000 clients.

 

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction assists the parole board in investigating clemency applications received through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project.  Parole officers compile reports which include any available details of the applicant’s offense(s), any additional convictions, and any responses received from the sentencing court, prosecutor and/or local law enforcement regarding possible clemency.  Those who fully qualify for pardon consideration under the Expedited Pardon Project are then scheduled to go before the parole board for a hearing.

Community Partners

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project depends on help from others to spread the word about the project to potential expedited pardon candidates and to encourage them to apply. The following community partners are providing valuable assistance to inform citizens about this innovative project to grant pardons to those who are most deserving.

 

Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

The mission of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is to promote solutions, including those from faith-based partners, to community needs and support the development of collaborative efforts to improve the well-being of all Ohioans. The office works to build a strong network of compassion in Ohio among the faith-based and nonprofit sector that serves as a safety net for Ohioans in need.

 

CARES Justice Institute, Dayton

The CARES (Community Alliances for Restorative, Educational, and Social) Justice Institute Incorporated is an organized organism established and mobilized to campaign in an effort to bring healing and hope for every born people group, one city, one neighborhood, one family, one citizen at a time; from generation to generation; advocating against the “acts” of unfair practices, policies, and any demonstrations of civil rights violations, social and economic injustices, the criminal justice system, and racism against Blacks, minorities and other people of color. CARES will champion exemplifying synergy and a pattern that proves, “We Are GREATER TOGETHER!”

Pardon Project Toolkit

Community members and community organizations are encouraged to help spread the word about the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project! Although the Governor’s office regularly receives clemency requests, few are from individuals who have truly been reformed. It is believed that the majority of people who would best qualify for a pardon are unaware of this opportunity.

You can help us reach those who could benefit from a pardon through social media, word of mouth, or by hosting an information session with the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon team.

WATCH: Expedited Pardon Project Workshop for Support Organizations

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project Toolkit includes the following:

Applications

Help those who may qualify for an expedited pardon get started on the application process by printing the application forms needed to begin the process.

Promotional Fliers

The promotional flyer can be printed and posted in high-visibility areas such as on bulletin boards or in common areas and waiting rooms. The one-page flier, which includes more in-depth information on application criteria, can be used as a hand-out for those who may benefit from the project.

Social Media Graphics

Anyone with a social media account can use the draft posts and graphics that are available in the toolkit to promote the project online.

Videos

A video to walk potential applicants through the Expedited Pardon Project process is available for download and use by community members and community organizations to assist individuals in understanding the application process. The workshop for support organizations is also available for download.

Events

Upcoming events will be posted here as they are scheduled.

News

2/3/2021 - DeWine puts major focus on tools for law enforcement in public safety - WKYC 

1/22/2021 - Governor's pardon project off to a slow start, recipients grateful for reprieve - News 5 Cleveland

1/18/2021 - Ohio's quick pardon program off to a slow start - Dayton Daily News

1/3/2021 - Ohio’s pardon project offers a clean slate - Toledo Blade 

1/8/2020 - How does Ohio’s new expedited pardon program work?: Q&A - Cleveland.com 

12/5/2019 - Ohio State to support Gov. DeWine’s expedited pardon effort - Ohio State University 

12/3/2019 - DeWine launches project to bring faster rulings on his pardons of ex-felons - Columbus Dispatch