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North Dakota governor pardons 18 people in 2 years

December 24, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has pardoned 18 people and commuted sentences for two others during his two years in office.

Data from the state’s Pardon Advisory Board shows the Republican governor has pardoned more people than his predecessor did during six years in office, The Bismarck Tribune reported .

Burgum supports the First Step Act , a criminal justice reform bill that President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday. It aims to reduce recidivism among federal prisoners.

The board’s chairman, H. Patrick Weir, says the panel has extended the types of pardon applications it considers, in part because of the panel and Burgum’s recognition of the role of addiction in criminal activity.

“We legally discriminate against people who have felonies all the time,” Burgum said. “This is like the scarlet letter that just follows them around and causes this legal discrimination.” It occurs in employment applications, housing and in other forms, he added.

A few of the people that Burgum pardoned includes a 65-year-old Grand Forks man for a 1972 arson conviction and a 69-year-old Canadian woman for methamphetamine possession in 1999.

“I was young and hanging out with the wrong crowd,” said a 33-year-old Minot man, pardoned for charges including burglary and drug possession.

The board meets twice a year to consider applications for executive clemency, which includes pardons and commutations. The applications are also reviewed by state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff before the governor makes the final decision. Burgum said he carefully reviews the pardon applications to keep in mind public safety and victims’ rights.

Burgum credits advice he received from other governors at a Western Governors’ Association conference meeting for his being proactive about pardons. The association includes governors from 19 western states and three U.S. territories.

“This is a tool you can use right now to both help your economy, your society, families,” he said. “Why would you wait until the end of a term to do something like this? If you can make a difference now ... why wait?”

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