Transparency and Comparative Executive Clemency: Global Lessons for Pardon Reform in the United States

This Article argues for transparency in the clemency process and contends that the concept of clemency as a benign sovereign’s “act of grace” is no longer appropriate in the modern world where executive action is subordinate to principles of constitutional due process and administrative equity. Despite calls for federal clemency reform in the United States, little comparative research examines clemency elsewhere in the common law world. This Article compares common law countries’ constitutional clemency mechanisms designed to promote openness, public and victim participation, and rational decision-making. In addition, this Article proposes four reforms to the U.S. pardon system that other English-speaking countries use, which will be explored in the four parts that follow: implementing an open decision-making structure (Part I); allowing judicial review of clemency decisions (Part II); applying freedom of information laws and reporting and publication requirements to clemency deliberations (Part III); and creating a role for victims and communities in the decision-making process (Part IV).