Everything You Need to Know About Pardon References

It seems like every major life event requires you to submit references or letters of recommendation. Applying to college. Applying for a job. Applying to join a particular group or club. And yes, the Board of Pardons has jumped on the letter of recommendation bandwagon. It requires at least three references if you want pardon consideration. Your letters of recommendation can go a long way, which is why I’m devoting this article to pardon references. Here, I’ll help you determine why references are so important. Also, I’ll discuss who you should ask to write your letters of recommendation. And, I’ll even explain how to write a great reference letter if someone has asked you to write a letter for them. To get the full scoop on the letter of recommendation, read on!

Common Questions

Why Do I Have to Submit References with My Application?

Being granted a pardon is a life changing event and an amazing privilege. In order to determine who truly deserves a pardon, the Board of Pardons considers references written on behalf of an applicant. Especially considering how many people apply for pardons, letters of recommendation help separate the suitable applicants from those who have not made substantial life changes since the time of their conviction(s). Pardon references explain to the Board what your character is like and they show how you have had a positive influence in other people’s lives. They can go a long way in determining if you should be granted or denied a pardon.

Who Can Write My Letters of Recommendation?

You need at least three letters of recommendation, and only one of these references can be written by a family member that is related to you through blood or marriage. This means that you have to choose between having your mother write your reference, and your spouse writing it. You can only choose one, so make sure you choose the family member who will write the strongest letter. Other than having a family member write a reference, you can ask:

  • A current or former employer.
  • A current or former professor/teacher.
  • A close friend.
  • Someone that you have helped and who can attest to your character.
  • A supervisor or colleague from when you volunteered.
  • A colleague.

These are just a few options. In next week’s article, I’ll go more in depth about how to choose who should write your references.

Are Three Letters of Recommendation Enough?

Three is the bare minimum when it comes to number of references. If you want to do something to make your application stand out in a positive way, you should consider asking 4-6 people to write you letters of recommendation. However, it is important to keep in mind that all of your letters of recommendation should be quality letters. It’s better to have three or four amazing letters of recommendation that really show why you deserve a pardon as opposed to 6 or 7 mediocre references.

The Writer

People Who Know You on a Personal Level

People that you are friends with will likely write heartfelt, substantial letters for you. Remember that choosing who should write your references isn’t really about impressing the Board of Pardons with a fancy title or dry letter – the Board of Pardons wants to see how you conduct yourself in your personal life and how you have influenced the people around you. Therefore, you should have at least one letter written by someone that knows you on a personal level.

People That You Have Helped

You should choose someone that you have helped in some way to write your reference letter. The Board will want to hear about how you have contributed to society and made a positive difference in people’s lives. Think about someone that you have helped, even if it was in a small way. For example, do you have a neighbor that you drive to work in the mornings? Or do you volunteer at a hospital? Do you offer to house sit for a certain friend when he or she is out of town? These are good examples of how you contribute to society and they will make great anecdotes in a reference letter.

People That Will Write a Good Letter

If possible, you should consider asking people who are strong writers to write your reference letters. Proper spelling and grammar, vivid personal anecdotes, and clear writing will go a long way with the Board of Pardons.

These are some basic attributes to look for in someone who can write a good letter of recommendation for you. Remember – you want to pick someone who will attest to your character. Characteristics such as hard working, generous, kind, appreciative, reflective, etc. are what the Board of Pardons is looking for. Think of people who can describe you in this way. Some general options include:

  • Someone that you have helped and who can attest to your character.
  • A supervisor or colleague from when you volunteered.
  • A current or former employer.
  • A current or former professor/teacher.
  • A close friend.
  • A colleague.
  • A pastor, priest, or religious leader.
  • A coworker.

Writing a Letter

Can I Help My Friend?

If you’ve been asked to write a pardon recommendation, the first thing to consider is if you can really help. Do you know him or her on a personal and professional level? Do you have specific experience with why this person deserves a pardon? Finally, do you know how he or she has turned his or her life around? If you do not have unique things to say about this person’s character and actions, you might not be the right person to write the recommendation.

Who Else is Writing a Recommendation?

Ask your friend who else is writing a reference letter for him or her. A pardon applicant should have a variety of letters from different types of references. If he or she just has three letters written by friends, these letters might appear too similar. Ask your friend if there is not a better person who can write unique things about him or her in this situation.

Can You Devote Time to Writing a Quality Letter?

Consider how busy you are and how much time you can devote to the reference letter. Letters of recommendation can be pivotal in the pardon application. These references can make a huge difference if they are well written and thoughtful, but they can also hurt an applicant’s chances if they are rushed and sloppy. Make sure that you can commit to writing a great reference letter before you agree to do it.

Are You a Good Writer?

You don’t have to be a poet or anything, but you should be a decent writer if you are going to write a quality letter of recommendation. Consider your ability to edit, check for grammar and spelling errors, and write a cohesive, concise letter. If you feel that you will really struggle with the mechanics of writing the recommendation, you might want to consider passing the opportunity to write the reference letter on to someone else.

Writing Tips

Edit

This is one of the simplest and most important tips that I can give when it comes to writing a reference letter. What you write will reflect either positively or negatively on the pardon applicant. This might not necessarily be fair, but it’s the truth. You need to make sure that your letter is well written and that the mechanics of the letter are spot on. Edit for grammar errors, spelling errors, confusing sentences or paragraphs, organization, repetitiveness, run-on sentences, and more.

One great way to edit is to read the letter out loud to yourself. When you hear the sentences out loud, you can catch certain mistakes that evaded you when writing or just reading the text. Another good idea is to step away from the letter and go back to it with a clear head. After you look at the same document for hours, you might lose your ability to focus on it and what needs to be fixed in it. Taking a break and coming back to edit can be helpful.

Be Specific

You want to speak to specific experiences that you have had with the pardon applicant, not in broad terms. It’s not enough to say that the applicant is, “a nice and generous person.” Say that the applicant is nice/generous because he or she did something for you. Give specific examples that back up your claims to the person’s character.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

It is important that you describe the pardon applicant in the letter, but you should also reference actions that he or she has taken in order to improve his or her life or help others. Talk about the community service that the applicant has completed, or the tutoring program that he or she started – things like this that will strengthen the applicant’s character.

Be Formal

Your writing should be formal, not casual. You should avoid using slang or profanity in your letter. In addition, you should address the Board of Pardons respectfully in the letter. Begin the letter saying, “To The Board of Pardons,” or “Dear Sir/Madam” and end it saying, “Sincerely”. This will show your level of respect and seriousness for what you are doing.

Be Clear

One of the most important things about your letter should be its clarity. You never want the Board of Pardons guessing at your intentions due to poor wording or organization. Clearly explain how you know the pardon applicant, the strengths that the applicant has, and the actions that he or she has taken to improve since the conviction.

By | 2017-06-29T20:36:35+00:00 December 28th, 2016|Pardon|0 Comments

About the Author: