South Dakota becomes first state to offer online clemency application
South Dakota's Department of Corrections became the first to offer an entirely online application for a pardon. The initiative was announced by the office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
"I am proud South Dakota is the first to have an online, paperless pardon process,” said Gov. Daugaard. “The task of making state government more efficient and accessible requires a constant effort."
Submitting an application online at doc.sd.gov/pardon is free but fees to obtain court documents and assessments still apply.
"I think it'll make us manage these applications more quickly and I'm very proud about South Dakota's effort to be more efficient as a state government," Gov. Daugaard.
The new website guides applications through the process, making it far more foolproof than a paper application.
"It was a paper application [before], they could access it online but they had to print it off and mail it in to us," said Traci Fredrickson a corrections specialist at the South Dakota DOC in Sioux Falls. "It came with a checklist of things they needed to obtain. It made sense to us, but to the general public sometimes it's very confusing and overwhelming."
The new only application has a checklist too, but instead of printing everything off and going through a paper checklist, the online system tells you what's missing before you even submit your application.
Fredrickson said incomplete applications really slowed down an already very lengthy process, because then the DOC would have to contact the applicant and let them know what was missing before any additional steps could be taken.
"We tell people from start to finish it could take six months," she explained.
But, they're hoping this will speed that process up. From checking the submitted application, setting up a hearing and an interview with the parole board and then waiting to see whether they'll decide to recommend clemency was a waiting game -- all before it heads to Gov. Daugaard's desk for his review.
"Receiving a pardon it's an extraordinary act, but he [Gov. Daugaard] didn't think it needed to be confusing," explained Sadie Stevens, a member of the Governor's policy staff. "The governor's always been a huge proponent of using technology to make the government more accessible."
This new application process will not only make things easier for applicants and those reviewing the application, but it will also make things a little easier for the governor.
"Before when we would receive pardons they would come in 3-inch, 4-
inch files," Stevens explained. "Now when the [Parole] Board recommends a pardon, it's on a database where the governor can log in to a portal review the documents, make his recommendation, and then right away the individual who prepares the application can know what his decision is."
Once the applicant has the governor's recommendation for clemency, he or she can immediately begin the paperwork for the actual pardon.
Gov. Daugaard's policy staff said putting this new process together started about two years ago. The actual building of the new website began sometime last July.
The DOC explained there are many reasons why people apply for clemency, but mainly it's to apply for a job or to get a firearm or hunting license. For the current fiscal year, which began last July, the DOC has received 74 applications and 62 of them have been sent on to Gov. Daugaard.