1. File executive clemency petition before the public hearing date
The Prison Review Board holds public hearings 4 times per year. The hearings are in Chicago and Springfield. As of 2017, there are 3 hearings held in Chicago and one in Springfield. You can check the dates of the hearings and deadlines to file at the Prisoner Review Board website.
2. Type and print your petition
Write your petition using these 6 sections. Title each section with the appropriate header:
- Required general information
- Convictions you are trying to get pardoned
- Your complete criminal history
- Personal life history
- Your reasons for asking for clemency
- State the type of clemency you are asking for and ask for a public hearing
Learn more about what should be included in these 6 sections from Writing an executive clemency petition.
3. Gather other documents
Gather all the documents you want to mail with your petition, like diplomas, certificates, and treatment papers. Make sure your mailing address is on the petition and not just on the envelope.
4. Get the petition notarized and make copies
Take your typed petition to a notary public. Sign the last page in front of the notary public. You can usually have the petition notarized at a currency exchange or bank; this usually only costs a dollar or two.
Make copies of your signed, notarized petition and all other papers you are going to include in your packet. You will need the original and at least 6 copies:
- One for your sentencing judges in each of your cases.
- One for State’s Attorneys
- One for your own files
5. Mail your petition to the State’s Attorney's Office and your sentencing judge
- Contact the Clerk's Office in the county you were convicted in to find out if your sentencing judge is still on the bench and get the address. If your sentencing judge is retired or deceased, you will send a copy to the chief judge in place of your original judge.
- If you have more than one conviction, you must send a copy to each of the sentencing judges and State’s Attorney
- Send proof to the Prison Review Board that you mailed a copy of your petition to both the sentencing judge and the State’s Attorney. Your petition will be rejected if you don’t send proof.
Please note: It is essential to include those certified mail receipts to prove you mailed the petitions. If you don’t, the request will be rejected by the Prisoner Review Board.
6. Mail petition to the Prison Review Board
Deliver or mail the Prison Review Board your notarized original petition and 3 copies of all your documents. Four petition packets should go to the Prison Review Board at:
Illinois Prison Review Board
Attn: Clemency Unit
319 E. Madison St. Suite A
Springfield, IL 62701
The Prisoner Review Board must receive the petition by the deadline listed on its website to be on the next available hearing docket. If you miss the deadline or you will have to wait until the next hearing.
7. Wait for a response to your petition
After 4 to 6 weeks you will receive a letter from the Prison Review Board stating that your petition was received and is complete. The letter will also include your hearing date, docket number, and the room number where your hearing will be held if you requested one.
If the petition is incomplete, you will be told what information is missing. Incomplete petitions are discarded after 90 days.
The letter will also give you a deadline to submit additional information. If you submit further information, you must also mail it to the State’s Attorney.
You will also get instructions on how to get fingerprinted for the Prison Review Board. You will have to mail the fingerprint card back to the Prisoner Review Board.
Going to your executive clemency hearing
Hearings are open to the public so that other people will be present. Everyone is scheduled at 9:00 AM, so arrive early to check in. Petitioners will be heard in the order of check-in. You can bring as many supporters as you want, but only three people can testify for you. When you are called up, you and your witnesses will be sworn in and sit at a table before 3-5 members of the Prisoner Review Board. You will summarize your petition, and your witnesses can make short statements about your character. The Prisoner Review Board will ask you questions. Be honest.
The State’s Attorney may object to your petition. Don’t get too worried. The State’ s Attorney objects to most petitions. You will probably receive a copy of the State’s objections when you sign in the morning of the hearings. The objections are usually based on several factors, including:
- The nature of the offense;
- The amount of time that has passed since the offense occurred;
- Lack of demonstrated need for a pardon; or
- Lack of sufficient evidence that demonstrates rehabilitation.
You are allowed to respond after the State’s Attorney presents the list of objections, so remind the Board of the positive things you have done to change your life, and why no further convictions will occur.
After an executive clemency hearing
Within 60 days, the board will make a private recommendation to the Governor, which he is not required to follow.
Be patient! Due to the heavy backlog of petitions that have been filed in past years, be prepared to wait for several years to receive a decision from the Governor. Although as of 2017, the current Governor has moved through the backlog quickly.
Clemency petitions are not granted frequently. Do not lose hope! Keep updated as to changes in the law that would make more convictions sealable. Make sure to explore options for waivers or licensing where you do not need a pardon to move forward in your life. Learn more about Other options when you are not eligible for sealing or expungement.
When the Governor makes a decision, you will receive a letter at the address on the petition. Tell the board of any change in address, so you can be sure to receive the letter.
If the Governor denies your petition, you must wait at least one year after the denial to file another petition.
Note: The information above only applies to clemency for state crimes. For information on clemency for federal crimes, visit the US Pardon Attorney's website.
Updated: June 2017