Ex-Gov. George Ryan could join a long list of those granted presidential mercy

Sen. <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PEPLT007474" title="Dick Durbin" href="/topic/politics/government/dick-durbin-PEPLT007474.topic">Dick Durbin</a> caught a lot of flak last week  by asking <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PEPLT000857" title="George W. Bush" href="/topic/politics/government/presidents-of-the-united-states/george-w.-bush-PEPLT000857.topic">President George W. Bush</a> to commute the federal corruption sentence of former <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PLGEO100100500000000" title="Illinois" href="/topic/us/illinois-PLGEO100100500000000.topic">Illinois</a> Gov. <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PEPLT004510" title="George Ryan" href="/topic/politics/government/george-ryan-PEPLT004510.topic">George Ryan</a>. But it was a reminder that the commander in chief is also the forgiver in chief.<br>
<br>
Over the last 21/4 centuries, U.S. presidents have granted pardons and commuted sentences for more than 28,000 criminals.<br>
<br>
"All a pardon does is put an end to all forms of punishment," says P.S. Ruckman, an expert on presidential pardons and a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford. It means that the recipient gets back the full rights of a citizen, such as voting and serving on a jury.<br>
<br>
It doesn't indicate that the president thinks the person was innocent. (Few presidents explain their pardons.) In fact, some people argue that, by accepting a pardon, a person is acknowledging guilt.<br>
<br>
The president can also commute a sentence, and set the inmate free immediately or at some future date. But the recipient of a commutation doesn't get back the rights of a citizen, Ruckman explained.<br>
<br>
That's why some people are given a sentence commutation by one president and a pardon by a later one.
chi-al6famouspardons0-081206-photo

( Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / November 17, 2006 )

Sen. Dick Durbin caught a lot of flak last week by asking President George W. Bush to commute the federal corruption sentence of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. But it was a reminder that the commander in chief is also the forgiver in chief.

Over the last 21/4 centuries, U.S. presidents have granted pardons and commuted sentences for more than 28,000 criminals.

"All a pardon does is put an end to all forms of punishment," says P.S. Ruckman, an expert on presidential pardons and a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford. It means that the recipient gets back the full rights of a citizen, such as voting and serving on a jury.

It doesn't indicate that the president thinks the person was innocent. (Few presidents explain their pardons.) In fact, some people argue that, by accepting a pardon, a person is acknowledging guilt.

The president can also commute a sentence, and set the inmate free immediately or at some future date. But the recipient of a commutation doesn't get back the rights of a citizen, Ruckman explained.

That's why some people are given a sentence commutation by one president and a pardon by a later one.

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