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NW Life | Think Out Loud

Clemency Offers Little Relief For Washington's Prison System


Washington’s prison population is growing steadily, it’s estimated the state will need 1,000 new prison beds in a few years. At the same time, the number of older inmates is also going up, which puts a strain on an already overburdened system. Parole is no longer an option in Washington, and hasn’t been for decades.

That means clemency is the only way prisoners can be released before the end of their sentences.

The Washington Clemency and Pardons Board is made up of five volunteers appointed by the governor. They review petitions for clemency four times a year and usually only grant hearings to about 25 percent of those who apply — of those, very few are granted.

We’ll talk about how the system is working with Jen Rancourt, a public defender who chairs the Washington Clemency and Pardons Board and a defense attorney who specializes in clemency petitions.

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