Record Numbers Seeking Bush Pardons

In that testimony, Adams said the office's "initial investigative step," when reviewing commutation applications, was to read an applicant's pre-sentencing report, judgment of convictions and prison progress report.

In a recent court affidavit, a pardon office official said the office reviewed those documents in "many cases," which Love described as a "change in policy."

"The Department of Justice has basically closed down the pardon program for all intents and purposes for meaningful release of ordinary people," she said. "I don't think any substantive thought is given to the issues raised by the people who are applying."

The backlog in applications, according to Love, is a result of the tough-on-crime attitude of the 1980s, including the explosion in drug cases, mandatory-minimum sentencing laws and the abolition of parole. Bush has received 7,707 petitions for a reduced prison sentence, nearly six times the number received by President Ronald Reagan.

Several outside experts and government officials said presidents often see little political upside, and a lot of risk, in granting pardons.

Said Daniel Kobil, a professor at Capital University School of Law in Ohio, who studies presidential clemency, "I think we're seeing a Willie Horton-ization of the clemency power," a reference to the convicted felon whose release under a Massachusetts weekend furlough program helped torpedo Gov. Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign.

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