By: Rueven Blau, The City
Last December, the governor said she would change the way pardons and clemency applications were handled. But little has changed since.
More than 1,200 people behind state prison bars are seeking the gift of freedom from Gov. Kathy Hochul this holiday season.
All told, there are 832 pending requests for sentence commutation and 450 pardon applications awaiting the governor’s signoff, according to Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for Hochul — a year after the governor vowed to overhaul the clemency system.
But Hochul hasn’t issued a single commutation or pardon since that December 2021 announcement, in which she promised to release prisoners on a rolling basis.
“It’s one of the few powers that the Governor has that they don’t need the legislature, they don’t need a commission, they don’t need a task force,” said Steve Zeidman, an attorney who has multiple pending clemency cases.
“They have the power to grant clemency in the constitution,” Zeidman said. “So from my perspective, use it. It should be an obligation.”
He and other advocates noted that last year Hochul promised an advisory panel of “impartial experts” to guide her on early releases — but it didn’t get started for months….