Presidential clemencies are fairly well documented. Statistics can be seen at political scientist P.S Ruckman, Jr.’s web sites. However, much less is known about state clemency. The Clemency Report will try to collect historical statistics for the states over the coming months to help understand how clemency works in the laboratories of democracy.
We start with Florida’s 148 sentence commutations since 1980. Current Gov. Rick Scott has shortened sentences at a rate of less than 1 in 300,000 prisoners, far below the 1 in 1,000 rate that indicate a minimally functioning executive clemency process. Detailed data follow.
Florida governors can commute sentences with the approval of two of the three other statewide officeholders. Florida has statewide elections for attorney general, the chief financial officer and the agriculture secretary, in addition to governor. The state once elected six positions statewide, but streamline that to three in 2003 — without change how the constitutional requirement for a governor to get clemency approval.
What the numbers show:
- Democratic governors granted more commutations than Republicans.
- Current Republican Gov. Rick Scott has granted only one since taking office in 2011.
- Since 1980, half of sentence commutations have been for murder. One-fifth have been for drugs. The rest have been for other crimes, such as robbery and DUI Manslaughter.
- In one-fourth of cases, governors simply removed mandatory minimum sentences. In nearly 60%, governors released inmates for time served, often effectively the same as removing a mandatory minimum. In 18% of cases, sentences were reduced to specific level.
|Governor||Party||Commutations per year|
|Note: Crist has been a Republican, Independent and Democrat.|
|Party||Commutations per year|
|% of total||48.6%||18.9%||30.4%|
|By commutation type|
|Remove mandatory||Time served||Reduced to fixed level|
|% of total||24.3%||58.8%||17.6%|