Woman urges governor to reconsider pardons
Walker indefinitely suspended pardon program after taking office
MADISON, Wis. — A young woman whose criminal past now haunts her job search said she wants the governor to reconsider whether to offer pardons.
Gov. Scott Walker shut down the program indefinitely after taking office, and hasn’t considered any pardon applications.
Criminals who have served their time typically can apply for a pardon, which is an official act of forgiveness by the governor that also can restore rights of a felon. Walker has said he won’t exercise that power, and some felons said that is preventing them from getting a job or moving on with their lives.
“I beat myself up every single day and say, ‘How could you do that? What were you thinking?'” said Jessica Cranfield of Chippewa Falls.
Cranfield spoke with News 3 from her home in Chippewa County and admits she’s made mistakes. At 17, she committed a number of crimes, including stealing a purse and clearing a bank account of $100 to buy drugs. For that offense, felony forgery, she went to prison for two years.
“When October of 2005 rolled around and I was a free woman I was 20 years old,” Cranfield said. “At 20 years old you have a lot of life in front of you, so I made the conscious decision that I was never going to get in trouble again.”
She is now married with children and in school working toward a bachelor’s degree in education, but said she’s unlikely to get her desired job as a teacher.
“It’s very difficult to get a job if you have any type of criminal conviction,” Cranfield said. “But a felony basically guarantees that you won’t.”
She called the governor’s office looking to apply for a pardon and discovered the program has been indefinitely suspended.
The move has even gotten recent attention in The New York Times, which profiled Madison resident and veteran Eric Pizer, whose 2004 felony battery conviction is preventing him from getting a job as a police officer because he can’t carry a firearm.
“It’s one of those where there’s many examples like that out there, but many people don’t have advocates for them, and one of the challenges I’ve always had is where do you draw the line on that?” Walker said.
Walker, speaking to reporters last week, said there’s been disparities in who got pardons in the past. News 3 asked if it was a job creation issue, given that both of these cases involved people who can’t pursue their careers.
“No, they can get jobs, they just can’t get jobs in an area that prevents them access because of their felony conviction,” Walker said. “But they are not limited in other ways.”
Cranfield said the felony conviction hasn’t cost her low-level jobs.
“I can get a job at McDonald’s, but I don’t see why what I did when I was 17 should limit me to that,” Cranfield said. “I want to say to my sons, I was forgiven for making a terrible mistake, nobody is perfect and everyone deserves a second chance. Because that’s what I believe.”
The governor also argued that district attorneys can work with former offenders to modify charges. Cranfield said she’d consider that, but can’t afford to hire a lawyer to undertake that process.
Pizer has appealed to the Grant County district attorney for the same reason but has been told his charges couldn’t be changed.