How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Pardon

by Sheryl Faber

A friend or relative is in prison and you are left with the daunting task of attempting to get her pardoned. Writing a letter asking for a pardon is quite an undertaking. You must be very sure of your convictions and be able to persuade state and penitentiary officials that the individual has some redeeming qualities and should be pardoned of any wrongdoing. This letter will require facts, persuasion, taking on responsibility and promises of future exemplary living for the person in question.

Layout your letter properly. Use quality paper, and type---not hand write---the letter. Use a formal letter layout (see Resources); your correspondence needs to look professional and well-organized for your appeal to be taken seriously. Attempt to have the correct official's name so you can address him directly and personally. Some agencies prefer that the letters be written on a specific form, which should be considered before sending your request.

Introduce yourself and state your relationship to the person in question. Give some background as to who you are and what your interest is in the case. State clearly what you would do to assist in rehabilitating the individual when she returns to society.

Describe the person you are attempting to have pardoned. Paint a positive and compelling picture of her and give examples of past good behavior, kind deeds and strong relationships with other friends and family. Offer names of coworkers, friends and relatives as additional references (with their permission), and give good reason to believe that this person will be a strong, upright citizen upon release.

Cite reasons why this person should be pardoned. Be clear and straightforward. She may have small children who depend on her, a job that benefits from her expertise or elderly parents who cannot function without her assistance. It is also possible that she was wrongly accused of a crime or played a very small part in a larger crime. Whatever the case, be honest, straightforward and concise about the benefits to her and others of her release.

Thank the official for his time and consideration. Leave your contact information in case he has further questions or would like additional information on the case. If no answer is given within a few weeks, call and check that the letter made it to the proper official, and check on the official status of the pardon.

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