Haley Barbour Defends Decision to Grant Pardons, Says He Believes in 'Second Chances'

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said that he was "very comfortable" with his decision to grant pardons or clemency to more than 200 people, some of whom are convicted murderers, in his final days in office.

Barbour defended his choice, saying that it is tradition in the state to free the trusties, as those who work at the Governor's Mansion are referred to, adding that officials usually choose people who fill those positions and that they are usually men who have committed crimes of passion.

The ex-governor pardoned more than 200 criminals convicted of murder, manslaughter and rape, among other crimes. He maintained that almost 190 of the people whom he granted pardons had already been released from prison, and that 10 have been or will be "fully released" from jail.

"Regrettably, many people believed from most accounts or misstatements that I released more than two hundred prisoners from prison.  That is not true," he said in a statement. "The fact is:  215 people received some form of clemency.  Of these 189 were not in prison; most had been out of prison for years, often many years."

While touting that the state of Mississippi is mostly Christian, Barbour said he believes in forgiveness and second chances. He recognizes the strong feelings of the victims and their families, and respects them, but the state does not carry out vengeance on their behalf.

"Christianity teaches us forgiveness and second chances.  I believe in second chances, and I try hard to be forgiving."

Barbour said a team of four people go through all of the trial files and follow the Mississippi Dept. of Corrections' recommendations through the process.

He also said that he released 13 "chronically ill" prisoners based on medical reasons, which he said would save money for the state.

"These inmates receive very expensive medical treatments, often costing more than all the other costs of imprisonment. A dialysis patient costs about $190,000 per year," he said. "All of these costs will no longer fall on the State."

The former governor has been keeping a low profile since his decision was announced earlier this week. He says he is staying out of the way for the new governor - but has asked lawmakers not to change the governor's power to pardon.

"I'm not saying I'll be perfect, that no one who received clemency will ever do anything wrong," he said. "But I'm very comfortable and totally at peace with these pardons, especially of the Mansion inmates."