Reprieves & Commutations

Other types of clemency, such as the right to commute a prison sentence or reduce it by serving in the Florida National Guard, are possible under state law. A reprieve is the temporary suspension of a prison term to allow an offender to be released on parole under restrictions that, if broken, would lead to his reincarceration. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles will consider petitions for compassionate and medical reprieves.

Compassionate Reprieve

Since the Department of Corrections will usually grant special and urgent leaves to most prisoners, the Board will only consider requests for compassionate reprieves from inmates who qualify for special or emergency leave. These are: Inmates who must travel out of state; those convicted of sex offenses; and life sentence inmates. The application for a compassionate reprieve may be submitted in writing, in person, or by phone to the Board’s headquarters. Compassionate reprieves are not granted automatically.

Medical Reprieve

The Parole Board has the legal authority to provide a medical reprieve to any prisoner it believes is totally disabled due to a progressively debilitating terminal illness. The prison’s medical personnel propose inmates for a medical reprieve. The Board considers how much of an offender’s current sentence has been fulfilled, as well as the expense of caring for the individual in prison. Medical reprieve offenders are supervised by a community supervision officer, despite the fact that they are severely restricted in their mobility. If the offender’s medical prognosis was incorrect and his or her health improves, he or she will be returned to prison to finish his or her sentence.

Commutation of a Death Sentence

The Parole Board has the sole legal authority to commute, or reduce, a death sentence to life imprisonment or to life without parole. The Parole Board will only consider granting a commutation to a death-sentenced inmate after all appeals and other judicial avenues of relief have been exhausted. At that time, the condemned convict’s counsel may petition the board.

The Board maintains an extensive file on each death-sentenced inmate. The file covers the facts of the crime, the convict’s criminal record, and a detailed account of his or her life before dying. When the execution appears to be just a few days away, the Board frequently gives separate appointments to the defendant’s representatives, as well as the District Attorney who prosecuted the case and the victim’s family if they so choose. The Board has senior members of its staff interview the condemned inmate.

Each Board Member then casts a confidential vote to commute or not to commute the death sentence. Three of the five members of the Board must agree to a commutation.