Clemency, as defined by the State Constitution (Article IV, Section 4), provides the Governor “the power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after convictions for all offenses except treason and cases of impeachment, upon such conditions and with such restrictions and limitations...”

Only the Governor may grant clemency and it is only granted under the most compelling circumstances.

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's Executive Clemency Bureau serves three primary functions:

  • To screen candidates for satisfaction of the Executive Clemency eligibility requirements as set by the Governor's office.
  • To gather materials concerning clemency applications.
  • To respond to letters from applicants and others regarding clemency applications.


Pardons may be considered if no other adequate administrative or legal remedy is available:

  • To permit a conviction to be set aside where there is overwhelming and convincing proof of innocence not available at the time of conviction.
  • To relieve a disability imposed upon a conviction (this is rarely used since relief may generally be obtained by means of a Certificate of Good Conduct or Certificate of Relief from Disabilities).
  • To prevent deportation or to permit reentry into the United States.

Pro Bono Clemency Program

To assist individuals in applying for clemency, the Governor's office has partnered with several organizations from the legal community to provide free clemency petition services to individuals incarcerated by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Although individuals may apply for clemency without the assistance of an attorney, free assistance will enhance the quality of the application and present the best case to the Governor.

To learn more about this process, contact DOCCS Executive Clemency Bureau at [email protected]

Commutation of Sentences

Commutation (reduction) of an incarcerated individual's minimum period of imprisonment may enable them to be considered for release on community supervision at a time earlier than permitted by the court-imposed sentence.

Except in extraordinary circumstances, a case will be reviewed for possible commutation of sentence only if:

  • The term or minimum period of imprisonment is more than one year.
  • An offender has served at least one-half of the minimum period of imprisonment; for those with a determinate sentence, this means serving at least three-sevenths of the period of imprisonment.
  • An offender will not become eligible for release to community supervision within one year from the date of application.

Executive Clemency Applications

A two-page document entitled “Guidelines for Review of Executive Clemency Applications” is on file in the Law Library of each correctional facility.