Illinois Governor Pat Quinn spent his first and last days in office considering pardons. On April 10, 2009, referring to the hundreds of cases left untouched by his impeached predecessor Rod Blagojevich, he declared that “Justice delayed is justice denied,” and promised that “My administration is fully-committed to erasing this shameful log jam of cases in a methodical manner and with all deliberate speed.”
Quinn was as good as his word. His interest in erasing the pardon backlog never flagged, even during his two reelection campaigns. By the time he left office earlier this week, he had acted on more than 5,000 pardon applications and granted full pardons to 1,789 people, more than any other Illinois governor in history. In his final week he also pardoned a man found innocent by the courts, making him eligible for compensation from the state, and commuted a number of prison sentences, freeing two men whose guilt had been drawn into question.
Far from being critical, the press was full of praise for his courage and compassion. It was a fitting way to ring the curtain down on a tenure that saw the pardon power restored to a respectable and fully operational role in the Illinois criminal justice system.