Reshaping the Presidential Pardon Process

January 5, 2024
By JustUS Coordinating Council

In the pursuit of economic justice, the JustUS Coordinating Council (JCC), led by justice-impacted leaders across the U.S., confronts a pivotal challenge within the criminal legal system: the urgent need for substantive reform in the presidential pardon application process.

The JCC’s mission is to enhance quality of life for justice-impacted individuals and their communities by dismantling the policies that uphold systemic oppression and marginalization rooted in racial inequalities and collateral consequences in order to restore human dignity. Through stakeholder engagement, we continue to highlight emerging issues to the often overlooked rights of impacted citizens—including those currently incarcerated. Guided by our economic mobility report, we underscore the intricate relationship between poverty, inequality, and mass incarceration. Individuals affected by the criminal legal system face a staggering 52% reduction in annual earnings compared to their unaffected counterparts, resulting in an estimated $372.3 billion in lost wages—an economic burden on families and communities that is not sustainable.

The U.S. Department of Justice, through the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) and the Office of Pardon Attorney, has issued a call for public engagement, recognizing the importance of community feedback in shaping a pardon system that genuinely serves all citizens. As impacted leaders, we see this as a crucial opportunity to align our calls for economic justice with systemic issues.

Recognizing the intricacies of the pardon application process as the linchpin of reentry and reintegration, we understand its pivotal role in providing the second chances we advocate for in our pursuit of justice and equity. The economic repercussions post-incarceration serve as a stark reminder of the financial toll on individuals impacted by the criminal legal system, emphasizing the urgency of reforming the pardon system to alleviate economic burdens and foster true societal reintegration.

“Unlocking the doors to economic mobility requires not just keys but also creating accessible policies that help open pathways to change and system transformation change and transform systems—including those highlighted in the DOJ request for comment.”

While the proposed revisions to the pardon application form are a positive step, the current economic mobility landscape for justice-impacted individuals propels us to delve deeper into the origins of barriers that impede reentry and reintegration. As impacted leaders, we propose solutions that extend beyond procedural changes, advocating for a just and accessible pardon process that aligns with the economic justice principles we champion. The proposed revisions to the pardon application form serve as a stepping stone, but our continued collective impact is critical. In doing so, our collective efforts will persist in reshaping a system that recognizes the resilience and potential for redemption within every individual, aligning with the economic justice vision we advocate for.

We encourage members of the JCC to carefully consider the proposed changes and form here. See further instructions for submission below.

Our voice remains a catalyst for necessary change, pushing boundaries, questioning systemic barriers, and striving for a pardon system that truly serves all citizens impacted by the economic ramifications of the criminal legal system. Accessible pathways to redemption that transcend past mistakes help foster a society where second chances pave the way to economic empowerment and justice for all.

As members of the JCC, our voices bring about the change we seek. If you are interested in being involved or staying up-to-date on these efforts, please email us at Comments on the pardon form revisions are due by January 16, 2024, please email your comments to Kira Gillespie, Deputy Pardon Attorney, at with the subject line: Comments on Draft Pardon Application Form.