Pardon me, please
Ex-cons are seeking a lot more pardons these days as criminals try to put their past behind them
Reposted from Â www.ottawasun.com
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, NATIONAL BUREAU CHIEF
The number of ex-cons seeking pardons has doubled as more employers and volunteer groups screen applicants for criminal records.
Last year, more than 30,000 people applied for pardons, and that number is expected to jump to 36,000 or more this year. That’s up from 16,000 just a few years ago.
The steep climb is also because more private businesses are sprouting up advertising help with the pardon process — a service that can cost $500 or more.
CoritaHarty, director of pardons and clemency for the National Parole Board, said most who apply are granted, if they have proven themselves law-abiding citizens. But she said strict rules are in place — including completion of sentence, payment of all court-ordered fines and a waiting period of three to five years.
“They aren’t just doled out,” she said.
Dangerous offenders and “lifers” with murder raps are ineligible, but all other offenders can apply for a pardon that essentially seals off their criminal record. Most people seeking pardons are for “relatively minor” offences such as petty theft, impaired driving and pot possession.
About 10% of Canada’s population has a criminal record, and about 5% are eligible for a pardon. About half apply.
Harty said a pardon doesn’t wipe out a criminal record, it just sets it aside. If the person is convicted of another offence, the pardon can be revoked.
“It’s a stringent process, but one that contributes to our overall mandate of public safety because it facilitates integration of people in society as law-abiding citizens,” she said. “And it works, because 97% of those who receive pardons, those stay in effect.”
In a recent performance report tabled in Parliament, the National Parole Board noted the workload spike from increasing requests had created a “serious situation” for the program. But Harty said the backlog problem has now been addressed and the process is speedier despite the rising tide of new requests.
Keri Wallis, manager of the Montreal office of the National Pardon Centre, said the higher demand for pardons is due to greater scrutiny for jobs, adoption or travel.
Many just want to remove the “stigma” of a criminal record on their file, which is open for the public to see in some provinces.
She said their for-fee service is “guaranteed” as offenders rarely get turned down if they fill the requirements.
“If the person serves their sentence and they have good conduct, they should not have any problem,” Wallis said.
“The only way you can get turned down is if you re-offend or if you have a little mishap with the law.”
Harty said applications facilitated by third parties that often charge “exorbitant fees” do not get processed in any preferential order.