Polis sets up new board to help determine who deserves clemency for past convictions

'While it is no substitute for reforming the criminal justice system, it is a power that can help transform an individual’s life'

Dean Williams, director of the Department of Corrections, in Centennial South Correctional Facility, formerly known as CSP II, on July 19, 2019. Williams will serve on the Executive Clemency Advisory Board. (Photo by John Herrick)

Correction: This story was updated on Feb. 27 to indicate the governor’s office will hear clemency request for death penalty cases, not the advisory board. It was also updated to include two new appointments and that the governor has granted clemency to eight people. 

Gov. Jared Polis announced on Friday he has appointed seven people to a board that will help him decide whether current or former prison inmates should have their sentences reduced or have past convictions all but wiped from their records. 

The Executive Clemency Advisory Board, created by law in 1969, will provide recommendations to the governor on applications seeking reprieves, commutations and pardons. All members are appointed by the governor. Terms expire on October 17, 2023.

“Clemency is a heavy responsibility. While it is no substitute for reforming the criminal justice system, it is a power that can help transform an individual’s life and I do not take it lightly,” Polis said in a statement. 

Polis has already granted clemency to eight people. The Office of Executive Clemency is currently accepting applications. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper pardoned 156 individuals and granted 18 commutations

 

Hassan Latif, the executive director of the Second Chance Center in Aurora, an organization that helps people with criminal convictions find work and housing, is one of the seven people on the board. 

“I don’t know what’s going to come before this council,” he said when asked about commuting the sentences of the men of death row. “My hope is that any kind of injustice or excessive sentencing is a thing we will get a chance to discuss.” 

The board can also recommend a pardon, which can help people obtain certain jobs or licenses otherwise impossible with a felony record. A pardon is different from expungement in that it does not scrub or seal a criminal conviction

“I’m concerned about those who have been released and their options have been hampered by convictions,” Latif said. 

In addition to Latif, the members include:  

  • Dean Williams, executive director of the Department of Corrections 
  • Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Department of Public Safety 
  • Kelly Kissell of Castle Rock, a victims’ rights advocate 
  • Hannah Seigel, a professor from Denver, to serve as a member with experience in juvenile justice or child welfare
  • Dr. Patrick Kevin Fox of Denver to serve as a member with experience in mental health 
  • Alberto Manuel Dominguez, of Windsor, to serve as a member with experience in law enforcement
  • Hans Christopher Meyer, of Denver, and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone Friedman, of Longmont, both of whom will serve as at-large members   
  • Promise Yul Lee, of Colorado Springs, and Maisha Jamila Marshall Fields, of Centennial, both of whom will serve as at large members.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.