By Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations.
In 1974 Gerald Ford used his presidential pardon power to create an executive clemency board to oversee the petitions of 21,000 people convicted of draft-related offenses during the Viet Nam War. Within a year, President Ford granted 90 percent of the petitions. The review process was a median strategy – many desired outright amnesty for the lawbreakers while others favored imprisonment.
On balance, the approach by Ford to impanel a pardon board allowed for individualized review of each clemency application, with options including approval, community service, or denial. A systematic process of review for this discrete class of cases helped mend a nation divided by conflicting opinions as to the legitimacy of the war and the reasonableness of sanctions for those who morally resisted it.