The Justice Department has taken far to long to process criminal pardon requests, causing a huge backlog, the department’s Inspector General said in a report released Tuesday.
While the number of people requesting pardons has increased tremendously, that boost is not the only cause for delays, The IG said.
Instead, the IG said that DOJ offices take longer than “established timeframes” to make recommendations. As of February 2011, there were 4,194 pardon petitions pending. It took an average of two years for pardon petitions to be processed, the IG said.
It should be noted that the years examined by the IG were those of the George W. Bush administration.
The president is responsible for making pardons. However, DOJ officials make recommendations to the president, after the cases are reviewed by various department offices.
The IG said that between Fiscal 2005 and Fiscal 2101, the number of pardon requests reviewed by the Office of Pardon Attorney increased from 1,075 in Fiscal 2005 to 1,733 in Fiscal 2010. At the same time, the backlog of petitions pending at the department and the White House increased by 92 percent. It took an average of almost to years from the time the pardon office received a petition to the time a final decision was made by the president.
DOJ officials already have implemented several of the IG’s recommendation, including better record-keeping and tracking of clemency petitions.
However, the DOJ criminal division said the report “unfairly leaves readers with the misimpression that the Criminal Division fails to respond to referrals in a timely fashion.” Division officials said that in cases where it played a “primary litigating role,” the division responded in an appropriate timeframe.