Ohio’s program to fast-track clemency for people convicted of felonies clears 100 pardons
An attempted robbery conviction hung like a black cloud over Carla Thomas for more than 20 years. The Akron woman told an audience at Ohio State University on Wednesday that cloud lifted last year.
“If you ask me who I am, I’m Carla Thomas,” she said. “I'm a child of God. I'm a servant. I'm a leader. I'm a mentor. But let me tell you what I'm not: I'm no longer a convicted felon.”
Gov. Mike DeWine has granted clemency to more than 100 residents with prior criminal convictions in Ohio, like Thomas, through a program that fast-tracks some pardons. For those who qualify for the Expedited Pardon Project, it can cut processing time down from years to months to receive forgiveness.
DeWine pardoned Thomas in 2022. She’s one of the 108 who have received a similar call formally forgiving them, and as of 2021, automatically sealing their related criminal records.
Sarah Ackman, DeWine's deputy chief legal counsel, is the one who dials. Thomas said she was brought to her knees—screaming—when she got the call from Ackman, who shared the news with her.
“It's very emotional for me, and for them,” Ackman said.
Since its creation, the governor’s office has received nearly 800 applications to the program. Of those, 108 pardons have been granted, and 60 more potentials are currently under review as of December, according to a data sheet.
On Wednesday, the governor’s office and participating universities held an event at the Moritz College of Law to celebrate the project reaching four years and passing 100 pardons. It was only the second time DeWine had come face-to-face with someone to whom he granted clemency.
“Fran and I were actually at a county fair, walking down the midway and someone literally ran out, he was working there, and he ran out to thank me and told me that I'd given him a pardon,” he said. “Today, we had at least 20 people here who I gave a pardon to. To talk with them and see their excitement, to hear their story—each one has a story, as we all do—but to see what this meant to them just was very rewarding to me.”
With one three-digit milestone in the rearview, DeWine said the work is far from over.
“This is the one thing the governor can do directly, that we can do and no one else can do,” DeWine told reporters after the press conference. “There's a lot of people out there today in Ohio who deserve a pardon.”
DeWine said, however, that an application is necessary to even start the pardoning process. Through the project, law students across the state also screen applicants and offer free application assistance. More information can be found here.