Governor Jared Polis began taking positive executive action in December 2020 to reduce those numbers by exercising his office’s power to grant clemencies and pardons. The first recipient of Polis’ largess was 84-year-old prisoner Anthony Martinez. Wheelchair-bound, Martinez suffers from dementia and kidney disease and was serving a life sentence imposed on him in 1989.
Miraculously, Martinez did not contract COVID-19 while in prison, despite his preexisting conditions that make him more susceptible to contagion. “The environment with the sickness that people were going through. It was bad. It was very bad. They were dying, people were dying, from one day to the next,” Martinez lamented.
Responding to his commuted sentence and exit from prison, he stated: “Today has been a big day. It’s pretty hard to explain. It’s hard, very hard.”
Polis commuted three other sentences, as well as Martinez’s, and granted 18 pardons. He stated, “Pardons and commutations make second chances for people. These individuals have taken responsibility for their past actions, paid a price to society, and demonstrated the ability to turn themselves around and live responsibly.”
“I wish the governor would have done more, because there are a lot of other people just like him in there,” stated Kelly Brasier, Martinez’s niece. “I hope those [other prisoners’] families don’t have to fight-so hard and so long like I did,” she added.
Colorado is ahead of other states like Texas. For this same period Texas has granted no pardons, no clemencies, and the state’s parole release rate is down by 66 percent at 1,848 per month from its pre-COVID-19 monthly average of 5,667 to 6,000.
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