Bill would make sweeping changes to pardons board

The state pardons board would have allow greater public scrutiny of its inner workings and notify prosecutors and victims before an offender is pardoned, under legislation proposed in the state House.

Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 71, a bi-partisan bill that comes months after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a series of stories that examined how the state Board of Pardons and Paroles lacks oversight and keeps its decision-making details secret, even when restoring gun rights to violent offenders once they are released.

Tanner’s bill, which will be officially introduced when lawmakers return to session Jan. 26 would for the first time require the board to give victims 20 days’ advance notice and prosecutors 30 days’ notice before pardoning an offender.

It also would require much greater transparency from the board, including:

  • Striking a provision that bars the board from releasing information on a parolee whose civil rights have been restored.
  • Requiring the board to produce a written decision granting a pardon or commuting a death sentence that includes the board's findings, and each board member's vote. The report would be a public record.
  • Allow public inspection of all records, papers and documents the board considers in making a decision, with limited exceptions.