Home>Feature>Could Murphy’s first term go by without a single pardon?

New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy. (Photo: Office of the Governor.)

Could Murphy’s first term go by without a single pardon?

By Joey Fox, November 22 2021 4:27 pm

Throughout his nearly four years in office, Gov. Phil Murphy has campaigned and governed as a progressive on the issue of criminal justice, advocating for lower incarceration rates, shorter sentences, and more second chances.

But the governorship has powers that would give Murphy even more of an ability to pursue those goals – powers that, incongruously, the governor has declined to use so far. With his first term almost done, Murphy still has yet to issue a single pardon, commutation, or reprieve.

Thanksgiving is often a time when governors both in New Jersey and around the country focus the most on pardons and commutations. Asked today whether he intends to follow that tradition, however, Murphy demurred.

“No news on pardons to make,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m making a statement either for or against them. I am proud of the fact that we’ve expunged 362,000 low-end drug records. I’m proud to have stood on the right side of the minimum mandatory sentences and all the work that we’re doing around that, but nothing beyond that to report.”

As Murphy noted, his administration has indeed focused on expunging criminal records on a vast scale via the court system. But those hoping for personal pardons, among them a noteworthy resident of his hometown of Middletown, have been left waiting during his first term – and may go at least one more Thanksgiving without relief.

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