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Governor Healey Issues New Clemency Guidelines to Center Fairness and Equity in Criminal Justice System 

Governor also recommends two more pardons, bringing total to 13 in first year 

BOSTON – Governor Maura T. Healey today released groundbreaking new clemency guidelines that align with her administration’s commitment to center fairness and equity in the criminal justice system. These guidelines are designed to provide guidance to petitioners seeking pardons or commutations and to assist the Advisory Board of Pardons with reviewing petitions for executive clemency.

For the first time in state history, the clemency guidelines explicitly outline the ways in which the Governor will use executive clemency to address unfairness and systemic bias in the criminal justice system. When evaluating clemency petitions, Governor Healey will consider factors such as the petitioner’s age at the time of the offense, health, post-offense behavior, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, as well as whether they are a survivor of sexual assault, domestic violence or human trafficking.  

 Governor Healey is also today recommending two more individuals for pardons – Robert Miller and Eric Nada. She has now recommended 13 individuals for pardons in her first 10 months in office, and the first 11 have previously been approved by the Governor’s Council. 

“Clemency is an important executive tool that can be used to soften the harsher edges of our criminal justice system. I am proud to release these new clemency guidelines that will center fairness and equity by taking into consideration the unique circumstances of each individual petitioner and the role of systemic biases,” said Governor Healey. “We are also committed to ensuring that victims’ voices are heard every step of the way. Together with the strong partnership of the Advisory Board of Pardons and Governor’s Council, we can make Massachusetts safer, stronger and fairer for everyone.” 

“Executive clemency has the power to not only make a positive difference in the lives of individual petitioners, but also to make our state fairer and more equitable,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “The Governor has said from day one that our administration is going to apply an equity lens to everything we do, and we are seeing the results – an administration-wide equity assessment, new and diverse councils and commissions, eleven pardons and now these updated guidelines.” 

The new guidelines outline three primary guiding principles that the Governor will focus on when considering clemency petitions: 

  1. The Governor views executive clemency as a means of addressing unfairness in the criminal justice system.As such, she will consider whether issuing clemency would address a miscarriage of justice and if continued incarceration would constitute gross unfairness. Some examples include evaluating the severity of the sentence received in relation to sentences received by defendants in similar situations, the extent of the petitioner’s participation in the offense, and intervening changes in the law. The Governor will also take into account the persistence of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and their root causes, as well as the persistence of stigma, bias, and systemic inequality. No petitioner will be required to prove racial bias or other discrimination in their criminal case to support a request for clemency. 
  2. TheGovernor will use executive clemency to ensure accountability with compassion. She will consider the nature and circumstances of the offense, including the impact of the crime on victim(s) and society, science-based evidence, and the age, maturity, and intellectual abilities of the petitioner at the time of the offense. The Governor’s consideration of these factors will be informed by research, such as studies tending to show when the parts of the brain that control behavior become fully developed and how the process of development impacts behavioral decision making. 
  3. The Governor will consider the character and behavior,particularly post-offense behavior, of the petitioner. The Governor will view character as a collection of actions over time. She will consider the petitioner’s efforts at improvement, rehabilitation or reintegration into society, and assess whether the petitioner will pose a risk to public safety. She will give significant consideration to petitioners who have clearly demonstrated that they accept responsibility for their past actions, made restitution to victim(s), participated in restorative justice or other similar programs, provided substantial assistance to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of other more culpable offenders and/or contributed to society through military or other public service in the military, good conduct that is helpful to others or charitable work. She will not give negative consideration to petitioners who pursue an appeal or other legal challenge to their convictions or cannot afford to pay restitution. The Governor will also weigh the effect of continued incarceration on the petitioner or continued maintenance of a criminal offense on the petitioner’s record. 

The Governor of Massachusetts has the power to grant executive clemency for offenses violating state law with the advice and consent of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council. Massachusetts law recognizes two separate clemency powers. A pardon has the effect of treating the petitioner as if the offense had never been committed. A commutation of a sentence has the effect of releasing a petitioner from an ongoing sentence of incarceration. 

Those recommended for a pardon today are: 

Robert Miller: In 1992, when he was 21 years old, Robert Miller was convicted of Counterfeiting Licenses and was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction. He ultimately served 30 days with one year of probation. Miller currently resides in Reading, Massachusetts with his wife and son, who attends college in Vermont. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and now works as the CEO and CTO of a renewable energy company that he founded. He has given back to his community by coaching his son’s sports and Lego robotics teams and working with his father through Angel Flights New England to transport people in need of medical care to hospitals in the Boston area. 

Eric Nada: In 1996, when he was 22 years old, Nada was convicted of Distribution of a Class A Controlled Substance and was sentenced to two years of probation. At the time of his offense, he struggled with substance use disorder and periodic homelessness. He has no other convictions and has been sober since January 1996. Nada now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and daughter. He has achieved a Master of Arts in Psychology from Pepperdine University and currently works as a psychotherapist in his own private practice. Nada has given back to his community by serving as an addiction recovery sponsor, providing therapy to women and children victims of domestic violence, and providing counseling to young people. 

Earlier this year, Governor Healey became the first Governor in decades to recommend pardons in her first elected year. She has pardoned 11 individuals, in addition to today’s recommendations, and nominated three members of the Parole Board. 

Statements of Support 

Attorey General Andrea Joy Campbell: 

“I applaud the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s efforts to use the power of clemency to directly address the unfairness and bias that exist in this system, and to help foster a more compassionate and equitable approach.” 

Martin W. Healy, Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Massachusetts Bar Association: 

“The new clemency guidelines clearly reflect a more fair and equitable approach to the clemency process by taking into account both historical injustices and modern criminal justice jurisprudence. We greatly appreciate Governor’s Healey’s embrace of clemency early in her first term and her openness to input from reform-minded criminal justice professionals, including the Massachusetts Bar Association Clemency Task Force.” 

Carol Rose, Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts: 

“We’re grateful that Governor Healey sees clemency as a means to address injustices in the criminal legal system. Pardons and commutations are an important tool to not just improve individual lives but also to right historic wrongs, remedy racial inequities, and fix systemic failures. These guidelines are a positive step, and we look forward to seeing the Governor exercise her clemency power justly and robustly. We also look forward to working with the Governor to address front-end systemic injustices that result in racial disparities in policing, prosecution, sentencing, and over-incarceration.” 

Patricia Garin, Co-Director, Northeastern University School of Law Prisoners’ Rights Clinic and MBA Task Force on Clemency Member: 

“I am very impressed and encouraged by Governor Healey’s Clemency Guidelines. They will become a reliable way to address unfairness and miscarriages of justice in our criminal legal system. Her strong statements that she will take the persistence of racial disparities and their root causes into account when deciding clemency requests, along with her pledge to consider the unequal treatment often affecting migrants, ethnic and cultural minorities, those who are LGBTQ+, poor, women, migrants, and the disabled, show a sincere commitment to fairness and equity, while addressing public safety. It appears that we may finally have a governor who has the courage to get smart on crime.” 

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