Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project

A criminal conviction can lead to a lifetime of consequences, but Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s Expedited Pardon Project gives citizens living upstanding post-conviction lives a second chance for better opportunities.

“I believe those who’ve committed certain felony offenses in the past and have gone on to lead good lives deserve better. They should not pay for their mistakes their entire lives.”

– Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

Governor DeWine created the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project in December 2019 as an alternative to the traditional clemency application process which is consistently bogged down with pardon requests from those who have not been rehabilitated. This delays the process for those who have reformed their lives or discourages them from applying altogether.

Exclusively for certain reformed ex-offenders, the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project gives qualifying applicants one-on-one application assistance and allows them to bypass the waitlist for pardon consideration.  With help from the University of Akron School of Law and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, the project accelerates the application processing time to months as opposed to the typical wait time of one to two years.

Why Apply for a Pardon?

Simply put, criminal convictions limit post-release opportunities. Job prospects are limited, volunteer options are restricted, and the stigma of a criminal conviction never fully fades. For those who have lived law-abiding post-conviction lives, a pardon can open many doors that have been firmly closed.

  • A pardon may open up different opportunities for employment that were otherwise prohibited such as certain healthcare and teaching positions.
  • A pardon restores your ability to volunteer in certain settings such as a younger family member’s sports team.
  • A pardon restores your ability to hold public office such as city council or school board.
  • A pardon may restore the ability to legally possess a firearm.
  • A pardon affirms the positive changes you’ve made in your life.
  • A pardon affirms the positive changes you’ve made in your life.

Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project Qualification Requirements

To qualify for the accelerated, one-on-one clemency application assistance offered through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, applicants must meet certain minimum requirements.*

To see if you may qualify, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org/can-i-apply/

Minimum Requirements

Due to the violent and heinous nature of certain crimes, those convicted of one or more of the offenses below are disqualified from participating in the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project. Those charged with a disqualifying offense are not eligible unless their entire case was dismissed. Disqualified individuals can, however, seek a potential pardon through the traditional clemency application process.

Aggravated Murder Attempted Murder Murder Voluntary Manslaughter Involuntary Manslaughter Reckless Homicide Negligent Homicide Aggravated Vehicular Homicide Vehicular Homicide Rape  Sexual Battery Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor Gross Sexual Imposition Sexual Imposition Pandering Obscenity with a Minor Pandering Sexually Oriented Material Involving a Minor Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity-Oriented Material or Performance Felonious Sexual Penetration Kidnapping Abduction  Terrorism Importuning  Compelling Prostitution Promoting Prostitution Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles Pandering Obscenity Deception to Obtain Matter Harmful to Juveniles Human Trafficking Domestic Violence 

Those not convicted of an aforementioned offense, and those who were charged with one of the disqualifying offenses above and whose entire case was dismissed, may apply for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project if they also have met all of the following requirements:

  • No felony or misdemeanor convictions in the last 10 years, excluding minor traffic violations
  • All sentence requirements completed before the 10-year period (probation, community control, post-release control, or parole)
  • Good-faith efforts made to meet all requirements of sentencing, such as the payment of fines or restitution
  • A post-offense employment history or a compelling reason for unemployment
  • Demonstrated efforts to give back to the community, such as a history of volunteer work or non-court ordered community service

*Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission to the project. The Project Team has discretion to decline applications that do not align with the mission of the project.

Application Process

Those who believe that they qualify for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project may apply to be considered for the project at ohioexpeditedpardon.org/how-to-apply.

Steps to Apply

1. Submit the required intake packet.

2. Those who meet the eligibility criteria and are accepted as project clients will be assisted in gathering information and documents needed to complete a full clemency application.

  • Assistance is provided by law students, faculty, staff and attorneys at partnering Ohio university law schools and legal aid organizations.

3. An expedited hearing is set by the Ohio Parole Board upon confirmation of the completed application and current eligibility

  • Applicants who no longer meet the expedited criteria may proceed via the traditional route for a pardon
  • Ohio Parole Board meetings for the Expedited Pardon Project are typically held within a few months after the final application is accepted, including a 60-day notice period for the court and victims
  • The board typically makes a recommendation for or against a pardon on the same day as the hearing

4. Based on the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, the Ohio Governor will make his final decision to grant or deny a pardon.

More in-depth, step-by-step details on the application and parole board hearing process can be found at ohioexpeditedpardon.org/how-does-it-work.

Begin the application process now at www.ohioexpeditedpardon.org.

Virtual Workshops

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project team is available to host question and answer sessions for individual agencies or the broader community. Contact the Project Team at [email protected] to learn more about hosting a virtual workshop.

WATCH: Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project Panel Event – January 22, 2021

Stories of Ohio Pardon Recipients

Whether you’re considering applying for a pardon through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project or the traditional process, a pardon can open you up to more opportunities. Here are some examples of those who were pardoned in Ohio after reforming their lives post-conviction.

Dr. Patrice Palmer, Pardoned 2018

Julia Brinksneader, Editor/Writer, Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

Her life turned around when she received treatment for her addiction and depression, helping her to put her life back together. As years passed, she graduated from college, started her career, and led a crime-free, drug-free life. She wanted to seek a pardon so she could pursue a license in social work but found the clemency process in 2017 to be a time-consuming, complex maze.

After an arduous process, she ultimately received a pardon in 2018 and is encouraged by Governor Mike DeWine’s Expedited Pardon Project, which simplifies Ohio’s clemency process for certain rehabilitated citizens who have consistently demonstrated that they’ve become contributing members of society.

Here is Patrice Palmer’s story:

Enduring a cycle of ‘dysfunctional living’

Patrice Palmer knows what it is like to be in the grip of addiction and driven to desperation.

“My background pretty much comes from 20 years of dysfunctional living: drug addiction, domestic violence, not being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and not really addressing those issues,” she said. “I became tied up — tangled and twisted into criminal activities in order to have the money to supply my drug addiction.”

Then, in 2003, Palmer had what she calls an “aha moment.” Her brother visited her at the Ohio Reformatory for Women and told her how her children were falling apart because of her absence.

“I thought about my choices and my decisions in life and how they were affecting these little people that I said I loved,” Palmer said.

She vowed to make a change. Palmer asked the prison staff for help and, when her sentence ended, she entered a treatment center in Cincinnati to address her addiction and depression.

Looking for a fresh start

After completing treatment, a determined Palmer started over. She worked two jobs and immersed herself in college classes, eventually earning a master’s degree from The Ohio State University, as well as three other degrees, including a doctorate in divinity and theology.

Palmer began working in the Franklin County Office of Homeland Security & Justice Programs which works to assist returning citizens with the reentry process by connecting them to resources and decided to seek a pardon from then-Governor John Kasich, so she could pursue her license in social work.

Soon, she became discouraged by the complicated process. Palmer found she couldn’t get past the first step because she didn’t have an original copy of a 20-year-old court record. Palmer’s quest to receive the needed document eventually involved her boss at Homeland Security, Director Kathy Crandall, Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown, and the commissioner’s aide at the time, Michael Daniels.

In the end, Palmer and her team put together a 139-page pardon packet, which included her criminal record as well as support letters, commendations, and training certificates.

“Finally, after a year, I was able to submit that paperwork, and that’s when another long process began,” Palmer said.

Everything had to be reviewed, and then, at the end, she had to face the parole board.

“I was kind of nervous,” she said. “All of my crimes were low-level offenses and drug-related and here I am going to go before a parole board. I had only heard horrible things about the parole board.”

Experiencing an epiphany

Palmer arrived at the hearing cloaked in success and surrounded by more than a dozen friends, family, and co-workers offering support, but her past was laid bare and she felt humiliated.

“I came before this board with a 15-year history of what I have done,” she said. “All the programs I had done, all the college degrees, all these things that I had done to get my life back together, to get my life on track.”

“I just started crying,” Palmer added. “Commissioner Brown held my hand and she said, ‘Just breathe.’ And it was at that moment that I thought … maybe I can be the voice for other people who need to come here and other people who need to apply for a pardon.”

After a year and a half climb uphill, Palmer’s efforts paid off. On the eve of Thanksgiving 2018, she found that her pardon had been approved.

“I was on my way to Kansas, to my son’s for Thanksgiving, and I had to pull over to cry. … It was something I didn’t think I would ever get,” she said. “I felt I deserved a second chance. I thought I deserved to rewind what I have done wrong.”

Excited about the pardon project

After struggling to receive her pardon, Palmer was thrilled to learn about Governor Mike DeWine’s project to expedite the process for certain former criminal offenders.

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project simplifies Ohio’s clemency process for rehabilitated citizens who have consistently demonstrated that they have become contributing members of society.

Upon announcing the project pilot in December 2019, DeWine said, “There are decent people all over Ohio who made poor choices decades ago, were convicted of crimes, and completed their sentences — but they continue to pay for their past every day. Despite serving their sentences and becoming good, law-abiding citizens, their criminal records continue to limit their opportunities. I believe these individuals should have a better chance to thrive.”

Key to the process are the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and the Reentry Clinic of the University of Akron School of Law, whose law students screen potential pardon candidates to ensure that they meet the project’s requirements and provide free assistance to those candidates along the way.

The universities submit the information gathered to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for extensive background checks.

After passing the background checks, the candidates get help from the students in putting together their pardon applications for submission to the parole board.

Palmer is encouraged by the program.

“I wish I had that kind of help when I was doing this process,” she said. “When I think about this project and what Governor DeWine and his administration are doing through this expedited program, I think it’s amazing. I think that it gives people hope.

“When you can instill a level of hope in people that have made poor choices or decisions in life — and pull out of them their purpose to give back to society — that creates a stronger person, a stronger family, a stronger community.”

Encouraging others to apply

Palmer knows the value of a pardon and encourages others to work toward that goal.

“Obtaining a Governor’s pardon was important for me because it told me that I have a forgiveness from the highest level of government in the state of Ohio,” she said.

Palmer was able to pursue the professional license she needed to meet her career goals, plus three more, and no longer feels held back by her past.

Today, Palmer continues her work for Franklin County in the Office of Homeland Security & Justice Programs and also is a social and criminal justice advocate for Chosen4Change, which she founded to educate others about mass Incarceration and to enhance the quality of life of individuals in need.

“Yes, I have a criminal record,” she said, “but, I can also say I have a Governor’s pardon.”

She has advice to others who are being held back by their past.

“If you meet the requirement to apply for this pardon, you should do it,” she said. “You should go for it. Take the risk. It’s going to make you feel better about yourself. It is going to speak volumes to your family, to your community, to the people around you. It will give you opportunities to obtain a different license that you may not be able to obtain having that felony record. And it is going to give you hope. It can be done!”

For information about the program, or to apply for a pardon, visit OhioExpeditedPardon.org.

James Earl Young, Pardoned 2019

Dayton man pardoned by DeWine says ‘Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing’

Laura A. Bischoff, Columbus Bureau

Dayton Daily News

December 2, 2019

This Thanksgiving, Dayton native James E. Young is grateful for an extraordinary gift from Gov. Mike DeWine: a full pardon.

“It’s been a journey and I’m so grateful to Gov. DeWine that I was selected. I mean, it’s a game changer for my life,” Young said this week. “It is an honor and I’m so very humbled for this opportunity. I truly believe that it’s bigger than what I think at this particular moment. I know God has big plans for me and I hope I can continue to be worthy of this.”

Young, 60, is the first — and so far only Ohioan — pardoned by DeWine.

The son of two Dayton Public School teachers, Young’s life slid off track in 1989 when he began selling cocaine during a stretch of unemployment. He got caught in an undercover sting.

Convicted of drug trafficking charges in December 1989, Young lost an appeal and served time in prison from 1991 to 1998.

Young found ways to make doing time a positive experience: he taught GED classes, created a life skills class and volunteered to read and write letters for inmates who were illiterate.

“I was able to learn about myself. I was able to sit there and dream again and become hungry and motivated and believing in myself again,” Young said. “You know what, it’s not where you started, it’s where you finish.”

He was released from parole in 1999 and he hasn’t even gotten a traffic ticket since then, records show.

“Well, when you’ve lost everything and embarrassed yourself and your family and you know that was never who you were to begin with all you want to do is do good,” Young said.

Shortly after being released from parole, Young moved to Atlanta where he found work, rebuilt his life and tried to give back. Several times a year, he speaks to jail and prison inmates.

“Motivational speaking, if you will. I give them my testimony of how this happened to me and how I overcame this and that this does not have to be your future,” Young said. “You can be one and done. It’s all about choices and decisions.”

In Ohio, Young held a license as a mortgage loan originator. But his felony conviction blocked him from obtaining the same license in Georgia. Georgia state officials told Young he should apply for a pardon in Ohio.

Young said he didn’t even know governor’s had the power to pardon — he thought it was something presidents did at the end of their terms.

The Ohio Constitution authorizes the governor to issue commutations or pardons. A commutation lessens the punishment for a crime and a pardon wipes it off the offender’s record.

The governor is required to wait until the Ohio Parole Board makes a recommendation before deciding a clemency request. In the first six months of 2019, the Parole Board reviewed 164 clemency requests – 76 commutations, 86 pardons, 1 reprieve and 1 death row case. The board was in favor of clemency in four of those cases, including Young’s.

DeWine said he granted the pardon after looking at Young’s clean record after prison, his need for professional licensing and the Parole Board’s unanimous recommendation.

“You have to look at the totality of the circumstances and you kind of look at your gut instinct and go with that. It made sense to grant him this pardon and continue in his career,” DeWine said.

The governor said in the coming weeks, he’ll be deciding more of the 400 pending clemency requests and next week he’ll hold a press conference on the matter of pardons.

Young, now a father of three grown daughters and six grandchildren, said he wants to make the most of this second chance by returning to the mortgage loan industry, publishing his poems, speaking to prisoners and being a positive light for others.

“I think that everybody should have the opportunity to be redeemed, to be forgiven,” Young said. “I believe that the majority are not perfect people, and so many people have done things and never got caught. For those who got in trouble, you take advantage of your second chance because you’ve been given a great opportunity and a responsibility. First of all, to prove that they did not make a mistake by giving you that second chance and to share your knowledge, your experience. You learn as much from failure as you do from success.”

He added: “My job is to continue to be a positive light to others and encourage everybody to never stop dreaming, no matter how old, no matter how young, no matter how the obstacles stack up against you. Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing.”

LaSalle Harris, Pardoned 2020

Within a span of four years, from 1998 to 2002, Harris had 23 felony convictions for various charges.

“Because I was in and out of jail so much, I was removed from my parental rights,” Harris said. “I had my third and fourth child while handcuffed to a prison bed. They never saw me. They never knew me.”

A few years later, Harris heard the call to make positive changes in her life.

“In 2006, I had a spiritual awakening where God told me that I was going to die if I kept doing what I was doing,” Harris said. “By that time, I had been in a community-based correctional facility, treatment [numerous times], and had four trips to the emergency room that were almost fatal. I was feeling hopeless, but God gave me a lifeline and I went to AA. I surrendered and was delivered from a life of drugs and alcohol.”

After deciding to turn her life around, Harris started taking steps to become a productive member of society.

“I started living at Legacy III, a sober house, and the community helped me as I worked to address my addiction and mental illness,” Harris said. “Now I work there part-time offering hope to individuals, introducing myself as a person with lived experience telling them if they would like to bring down barriers that can help them have a better life, I am here.”

Harris continues to help people in need though her nonprofit, JoAnna House II.

“Now I run a sober living house in Akron called the JoAnna House II, which my church, Akron Bible Church, helped me start. I am the founder and CEO, and a certified peer recovery supporter.”

Since its inception in 2012, JoAnna House II has been able to help over 700 women recovering from addiction and mental illness.

With the momentum of a successful nonprofit, being sober for seven years, and building a stable life for herself, Harris wanted to find her children.

“I always had it in my heart that I would find my children. Adoption Network Cleveland searched for my children and found them,” Harris said. “When I saw my daughter she said, ‘mom, I thought you were dead.’ My kids have been back in my life for the past nine years, and we are continuing to work on building a healthy family bond.”

Harris also excelled in the classroom, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work. But with her past, she knew she would run into limitations advancing her career.

When Harris saw a flyer at the University of Akron advertising the Pardon Project, she knew she needed to apply.

“Professor Sahl and her staff were very helpful through the application process,” Harris said. “I found out that I still owed court fines, and they helped me write a letter to the judge to waive them. I am thankful for all their encouragement, guidance, and persistence that got me through the process.”

With a positive mindset and her life in a new direction, Harris completed her application for a pardon.

On Christmas Eve of 2020, LaSalle Harris received the best news possible in the mail. She had been pardoned by Governor DeWine.

“When I saw an envelope in the mail from the Governor’s office, I got so excited,” Harris said. “Opening the letter, I ripped it a bit because I was so happy. Getting a pardon was a breath of fresh air. What a journey it was with the pandemic and waiting on this pardon. To see a bright spot at the end of the year was such a blessing.”

Harris encourages others to apply for the Pardon Project.

“Everyone thinks that they can’t be pardoned for this or that, but if you don’t apply, you’ll never know,” Harris said. “A pardon can change your life but know that I didn’t get here alone. I’ve had people in my life who believed in me. If you open up to others, you can receive the support you need. Thank you, Professor Sahl and Governor DeWine.”

For more information on the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org.

Aaron Ward, Pardoned 2021

After serving his sentence, Ward’s record made him feel like he was living in the shadows. Even though he got sober and began giving back to his community and church by donating clothes, and food from his farm, Ward’s past still followed him. He carried a certain level of fear even when trying to participate in activities like hunting, worrying that someone would learn about his past and look at him differently.

“I love to hunt but with my record, I was only allowed to use a bow,” Ward said. “When friends would ask me, ‘Did you shoot any deer today?’ I would always have to make an excuse because I didn’t want them to know why I couldn’t use a gun.”

Ward said he also felt uncomfortable at work when he purposefully didn’t mark on applications that he had a felony.
“I don’t want to say that I lied, but when a question on the application asked, “Are you a convicted felon?” most of the time I just left that blank, or I would explain it in the interview, hoping that I would still get the opportunity,” Ward said. “The last job I had, I was there over 10 years, and they didn’t know that I was a convicted felon. I always had a fear in the back of my mind that I would get called into the office and they’d say, ‘We’re going to have to let you go. You’ve been a great employee, but we found out that you were a felon’ or another fear was that someone at work was going to tip off the company.”

After being out of trouble for more than 20 years, Ward thought it was time to try for a pardon.

“I went to a courthouse in Columbus hoping for an expungement, but a judge said I didn’t meet all of the requirements,” Ward said. “Then, a while later I heard about Governor DeWine’s new pardon program, and I thought this is the time to apply [for a pardon] and I was accepted.”

With a desire to make more positive changes in his life, Ward got in touch with The University of Akron School of Law.

“Professor Sahl at The University of Akron and her staff were a big help. They walked me through the process to get everything I needed,” Ward said. “They gave me the resources I needed to find old records of mine because not everything was on the Internet like it is today.”

When Ward received his pardon after working with the University, he was excited to share the good news with his mom.

“When I received the letter saying I got a pardon, I was tickled to death,” Ward said. “The first call I made was to my mom who is now 85. I wanted to give her another reason to be proud of her son. I was so relieved to finally be pardoned of something I’d done years ago as a foolish young man.”

Ward said that with his pardon, he has more confidence, especially when it comes to talking with elected officials.

“[Before my pardon] I didn’t have the nerve to talk to a judge or local officials because I thought, ‘who am I to go ask this guy to do something for me?’ Since my pardon, I don’t have that fear in the back of my mind,” Ward said. “I voted for the first time a few months ago and spoke to some local officials who now are helping me get a bridge on my road. I got a Kentucky hunting license. I’ve had fresh fish out of a lake and now I’m waiting on winter to get here and see if I can put a little bit of deer in my freezer. My life’s changing.”

Ward is thankful to Governor DeWine for looking at his case and granting him a pardon.

“I want to thank Governor DeWine for giving people a second chance,” Ward said. “The pardon gave me a whole new outlook on life.”

To apply for a pardon, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org.

Barbara Clark, Pardoned 2022

To make extra cash, Clark says she began selling diet pills that she’d been prescribed by her doctor – a decision that led to regular stays at the county jail, and ultimately, nearly two decades of drug addiction.

Clark went to jail eight times over the years on charges of receiving stolen property, attempted forgery, drug abuse, and having a weapon under disability.

“In the end it was all about the drugs,” Clark said. “Seeing the look on my kid’s faces when I left for a day or two hurt me but the more pain I felt, the more drugs I used to cover it up. Getting shot, my house burning down with me and my children inside didn’t stop me. It was the lifestyle that I lived.”

One day in 2003, Clark says she decided that she was done living a life of addiction. At the very corner where she began selling drugs 18 years prior, she asked for help from a long-time friend who was driving in the area. He took her to Netcare Access, a mental health and substance abuse crisis intervention center, which changed her life.

“When I started at the in-patient program, a woman within my group told me to ‘chase recovery like you chased the drugs,’” Clark said.

Taking the advice to heart, Clark was determined to rebuild the community she felt she had helped destroy.

When she had four months of treatment under her belt, Clark got a job in Columbus where she quickly rose into management and leadership roles. Ironically, the view from her office overlooked the place where she had abused drugs and was at her lowest, but now she was able to look at Mount Vernon Plaza and feel respected and trusted by her community.

Working on giving back to the community, Clark became a drug and alcohol counselor, a state-certified peer supporter, a member of several community boards including IMPACT, Mount Vernon Avenue District Improvement Association, and the Columbus Civilian Community Board, and even worked with Governor Mike DeWine when he was Attorney General to assemble a community conversation on opioid abuse. She is currently employed at Columbus Kappa Foundation and Thrive Peer Support in Columbus. At Thrive, she works with the Ohio State University emergency department to help patients who have overdosed or have a serious alcohol issue by sharing her story and walking them into treatment from the ER if they’re willing to take that step.

Although doors were opening and she was rebuilding relationships with her children, Clark ran into barriers to obtain housing and jobs. She says she asked God and her family for forgiveness but was hesitant to ask the state because of all the trouble she had caused.

“I applied for an apartment and for a job and they said something came up in my background,” Clark said. “I felt like getting a pardon was the last thing I needed to do to keep growing and to truly deserve all the gifts I had been given.”

Clark initially applied for a pardon through the traditional route, but with encouragement from the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, she withdrew that application and reapplied through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project. Due to her upstanding post-conviction life, she qualified for the program, which fast-tracked her for pardon consideration.  When she was accepted to the program, she says the University of Akron’s School of Law was motivated to help her get through the complex pardon process.

“It was a lot of work, but I felt like the law school was another community rallying around me to offer their support,” Clark said.

In February of 2022, Clark got the call she had been waiting for. She had received a pardon by Governor DeWine. Among her 19 letters of recommendation was a letter from a police officer who knew Clark during her troubled years but watched her grow into a positive influence within the community.  

Clark said that getting a pardon allowed her to close the door on her past while still using her life’s experiences as she moves forward with her future.

“I felt whole when I got my pardon,” Clark said. “I have a past, but I don’t deny it because I use it today to help hundreds of people not make the same mistakes. I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I didn’t go through all those struggles. I used to be selfish, but now I work for everybody. I am so grateful for my life today.”

Clark encourages those who are thinking about applying for a pardon to take advantage the opportunity.

“One thing I learned in treatment is that you have to learn how to take advice,” Clark said. “Here is mine: a pardon is closure. It gave me a release inside of my soul when I gained my pardon.”

To apply for a pardon, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org.

Richard “Gene” Hill, Pardoned 2022

After serving his sentence, Richard “Gene” Hill constantly faced obstacles while trying to find employment. 

“I lost good jobs over the years because of my background, and I wound up taking what I consider “B” level positions. Most of the jobs I was able to obtain came about because I knew somebody or somebody at the company would vouch for me,” Hill said. 

Hill’s criminal history was getting in the way of his future opportunities. He was arrested and convicted on drug charges for trying to sell cocaine to someone who was working undercover with a local law enforcement agency. 

“There is no explanation for what I did,” he said. “Just poor choices.”

Hearing about Hill’s job struggles, a long-time friend convinced him to do some research into what it would take to get a pardon. 

“I never considered a pardon. For me, that would’ve been like you had as much of a chance of obtaining a pardon as winning the lottery,” Hill said. “But when I read the qualifications for the Pardon Project, I thought, this is doable!”

Hill’s post-conviction life made him the perfect candidate to be considered for an expedited pardon. He was a natural fit for jobs that allowed him to help people. When he owned a bar, Hill hosted meetings there for the March of Dimes, and today, he is an operations manager for a local food distributor who seeks to employ hard workers with felony records.”

“Everything I did day in, day out wasn’t for the grand goal of getting a pardon. That just happened to pop up after 30 years. I’ve always tried to help whether it be a local organization or statewide, Hill said. I always try to get involved. I love doing it. “[After my sentence] the YMCA welcomed me back with open arms. I started running the racquetball program again and was even asked to be a mentor for Team in Training, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”

When Hill went forward with this application for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, he said that he wanted to get a pardon for his family, his children, and himself.

“When I got in trouble, my youngest daughter was 10,” Hill said. “I had to look her in the eye and tell her, ‘Daddy got in trouble, and I’m not going to be around for a while.’”

He says it was one of the best days of his life when he received the phone call with the good news that Governor DeWine had granted him a pardon.  

“When I received my pardon, I cried like a baby. It’s up there with the birth of my children, my daughter being valedictorian of her class, just a monumental event in my life. It’s a phenomenal feeling,” Hill said. “My family suffered right along with me through this whole ugly process I went through. They also shared in the joy of the pardon. It’s hard to describe. When you’ve made such a major mistake in your life…to be able to have somebody remove that mistake, at least from the public’s view, was such a joyous event.” 

Hill encourages anyone who qualifies for the Pardon Project to apply.

“I would tell anyone who qualifies to apply for the Pardon Project to let them know that yes, you can do this! When I read the paragraph explaining the program, it was like reading one of the greatest things in my life,” Hill said. “I thought, here’s a path that’s all laid out, and there are people involved to help you through it! It was just such a wonderful thing to find.”

His primary piece of advice to anyone thinking about applying for a pardon is not to give up hope.

“I’m just a common, ordinary guy and I got a pardon,” Hill said. “You don’t have to be a ‘big wig’ for [the Pardon Project] to be effective. There must be hundreds or thousands of people that would be just as deserving as me for a pardon. You just have to have faith that it can happen.”

For more information on the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org

Dana Killebrew, Pardoned 2022

“At age 7 or 8, drug abuse started in our household; paired with a lot of broken promises from my mom who was in and out of jail,” Killebrew said. “I had a sister who had passed away, but my brother, my other sister with cerebral palsy, and myself were taken by social services and put into separate homes with different family members.”

“My mom would tell us, ‘As soon as I come home, I’m going to get you guys, get a place, and we’ll get back together,’” Killebrew said. “As a child hearing that you get your hopes up because I was somewhere I didn’t want to be. At the time, I didn’t think the family members who took me in were people that loved and cared about me. All I could think of is, ‘Why am I in this situation? I’m not with my mom’ but as time went on, she’d get out of prison and before long slip back into her ways.”

Fast forward to his early teens, Killebrew started engaging in criminal activity. With his mom in and out of jail for the past six years, Killebrew had surrounded himself with a bad group of peers and in part, was acting out for attention without fully understanding the severity of the path he was creating for himself.
“I got into gambling,” Killebrew said. “One thing to know about it is you never win as much as you lose. I was in the streets and started trafficking drugs trying to get more money to gamble. I was starting to repeat the cycle I was brought up in.”

Killebrew started using alcohol and marijuana, racking up misdemeanor cases that eventually caught up with him. He ended up being arrested for drug trafficking and was placed on probation. A judge ordered him to get his GED because he dropped out of high school his senior year.

“Dropping out is one of the biggest regrets I have,” Killebrew said. “I just watched my oldest daughter’s boyfriend graduate. I told my wife, watching him graduate reminds me of one of my biggest regrets because I never had a chance to go to high school graduation or experience the fruits and labors of high school.”

Still on probation, Killebrew continued down the same path, being in the streets, gambling, and selling drugs to get more money to feed his bad habits.

“I made a lot of bad decisions, but the most costly was when me and a co-defendant decided to attempt two robberies in 30 minutes,” Killebrew said. “During the second one, we got caught during the process.”

Killebrew was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery, which gave him a seven-year prison sentence. When he went to serve his time in 2003, he had just turned 22.

When Killebrew arrived at the correctional institution, he was determined to make a better life for himself.  

“When I arrived at the institution, I had my mind made up that I created my bed, I have to lie in it, but I’m not just going to lie down,” Killebrew said. “I’m going to do something to try to better myself and use this time wisely so I don’t go down this path again. I joined various vocational and college classes and tried to better prepare myself for when I came home.”

Killebrew knew he had to take it upon himself to create the life he wanted to lead. 

“I knew that the rate of recidivism was high, especially for African American males, that come back into the same environment they left,” Killebrew said. “Coming home, I knew I wasn’t going to have a support system. I had to recreate myself and dig deep because I didn’t know who I was. To this day, I’m still trying to figure out some things, but I have a clear mind and vision of what I need to do to reach those goals once they’re set.”

After coming home, Killebrew started a family and now has a wife and three kids. Wanting to be someone his family could look up to, Killebrew applied for the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project after hearing about it from his sister-in-law.

“I wanted to be there [for my kids] and give them someone that they can look up to and be proud of,” Killebrew said. “I reached out to Professor Sahl for more information about the program and I met the basic criteria [of the Pardon Project], so I decided to give it a shot even though I still had doubts if it would work out.”

After finishing his application and going through the necessary process for the program, Killebrew got the call saying that he had been pardoned, and he couldn’t hide his joy.

“When I first got the call, the woman said after reviewing my case extensively, the Governor had come to a decision, and I thought he was going to deny it,” Killebrew said. “By the grace of God, she said he was going to sign the pardon, and I couldn’t do anything but smile. I called my wife and we just praised God. It was a burden off my shoulders, and it proved to not only others but to myself that I was worthy and capable of change.”

Killebrew said he is thankful for Governor DeWine reviewing and granting him a pardon and hopes to pursue a job in the medical field alongside his daughter.

“I want to reassure Governor DeWine that he didn’t make a mistake in granting me a pardon. I was the one that made a mistake,” Killebrew said. “I will continue to do whatever I need to be the best version of me and would be on the front line of advocating for the [Pardon Project].”

For those who are considering applying for the Pardon Project, Killebrew encourages those who may qualify to apply.

“When you apply, don’t give up or lose hope,” Killebrew said. “If you meet the criteria, stay focused and shoot for it. Only one of two things can happen, you can be denied or approved. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

For more information on the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org

Pardon Project Partners

Project Team

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project is one of Governor DeWine’s priority initiatives for Ohio. The Ohio State University and the University of Akron are key partners in reviewing expedited pardon requests and assisting applicants who qualify.

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center | The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) focuses on promoting and supporting interdisciplinary, evidence-based research, scholarship, education, community outreach, and public engagement on the myriad issues and societal impacts surrounding the reform of criminal and civil laws prohibiting or regulating the use and distribution of traditionally illicit drugs. The DEPC examines the impact of modern drug laws, policies, and enforcement on personal freedoms and human well-being, giving particularized and sustained attention to analyzing the rapid evolution of marijuana laws and the impacts of state-level reform efforts.

Reentry Clinic | The University of Akron School of Law

The University of Akron School of Law’s Reentry Clinic assists clients with remedies to ameliorate the impact of their convictions including pardons, court sealings, human trafficking expungement, and Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE). The clinic provides valuable experience for Akron Law students seeking to make a difference in society, whether they intend to pursue a career in the public or private sector. Since its creation in 2013, the clinic has served an estimated 7,000 clients.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction assists the parole board in investigating clemency applications received through the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project.  Parole officers compile reports which include any available details of the applicant’s offense(s), any additional convictions, and any responses received from the sentencing court, prosecutor and/or local law enforcement regarding possible clemency.  Those who fully qualify for pardon consideration under the Expedited Pardon Project are then scheduled to go before the parole board for a hearing.

Service Providers

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center | The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) focuses on promoting and supporting interdisciplinary, evidence-based research, scholarship, education, community outreach, and public engagement on the myriad issues and societal impacts surrounding the reform of criminal and civil laws prohibiting or regulating the use and distribution of traditionally illicit drugs. The DEPC examines the impact of modern drug laws, policies, and enforcement on personal freedoms and human well-being, giving particularized and sustained attention to analyzing the rapid evolution of marijuana laws and the impacts of state-level reform efforts.

Reentry Clinic | The University of Akron School of Law

The University of Akron School of Law’s Reentry Clinic assists clients with remedies to ameliorate the impact of their convictions including pardons, court sealings, human trafficking expungement, and Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE). The clinic provides valuable experience for Akron Law students seeking to make a difference in society, whether they intend to pursue a career in the public or private sector. Since its creation in 2013, the clinic has served an estimated 7,000 clients.

Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Marshall College of Law launched theirPardon, Clemency, and Expungement Clinic in January 2022. Their work includes representing clients seeking pardon or clemency from the Ohio Governor, or expungement of a prior conviction from a court. 

University of Dayton School of Law

Central to the University of Dayton School of Law’s teaching is developing complete professionals with an enhanced appreciation for ethics and pro bono service. Students in the Leadership Honors Program recognized a need for outreach and assistance for those eligible for an executive pardon. Through partnership with the OGEPP, students in the Leadership Honors Program and beyond will work with community partners and provide free assistance to clients through the process of applying for a pardon so those eligible can more fully rejoin society.

Ohio Justice & Policy Center

Ohio Justice & Policy Center is a nonprofit law firm with offices in Cincinnati and Columbus. Their mission is to create fair, intelligent, redemptive criminal justice systems. All of OJPC’s work is aimed at three overarching objectives: Decarceration – substantially reducing the size and racial disparity of the state prison population, Second Chances – expanding the freedom of people with criminal records to participate fully in the community, and Human Rights in Prison – protecting the rights and dignity of incarcerated people. OJPC partners on the project with the University of Cincinnati Law School. 

Community Partners

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project depends on help from others to spread the word about the project to potential expedited pardon candidates and to encourage them to apply. The following community partners are providing valuable assistance to inform citizens about this innovative project to grant pardons to those who are most deserving.

Pardon Project Toolkit

Community members and community organizations are encouraged to help spread the word about the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project! Although the Governor’s office regularly receives clemency requests, few are from individuals who have truly been reformed. It is believed that the majority of people who would best qualify for a pardon are unaware of this opportunity.

You can help us reach those who could benefit from a pardon through social media, word of mouth, or by hosting an information session with the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon team.

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project Toolkit includes the following:


Help those who may qualify for an expedited pardon get started on the application process by printing the application forms needed to begin the process.

Promotional Fliers

The promotional flyer can be printed and posted in high-visibility areas such as on bulletin boards or in common areas and waiting rooms. The one-page flier, which includes more in-depth information on application criteria, can be used as a hand-out for those who may benefit from the project.

Social Media Graphics

Anyone with a social media account can use the draft posts and graphics that are available in the toolkit to promote the project online.


A video to walk potential applicants through the Expedited Pardon Project process is available for download and use by community members and community organizations to assist individuals in understanding the application process. The workshop for support organizations is also available for download.


Upcoming events will be posted here as they are scheduled.


2/3/2021 – DeWine puts major focus on tools for law enforcement in public safety – WKYC 

1/22/2021 – Governor’s pardon project off to a slow start, recipients grateful for reprieve – News 5 Cleveland

1/18/2021 – Ohio’s quick pardon program off to a slow start – Dayton Daily News

1/3/2021 – Ohio’s pardon project offers a clean slate – Toledo Blade 

1/8/2020 – How does Ohio’s new expedited pardon program work?: Q&A – Cleveland.com 

12/5/2019 – Ohio State to support Gov. DeWine’s expedited pardon effort – Ohio State University 

12/3/2019 – DeWine launches project to bring faster rulings on his pardons of ex-felons – Columbus Dispatch