Do’s and Don’ts When Writing to the Pardon Attorney or President

Amy Povah, Founder of the CAN-DO Foundation, Justice Through Clemency

Amy Povah, Founder of the CAN-DO Foundation, Justice Through Clemency

Dos and Donts when writing the Pardon Attorney If this is the first time a prisoner is filing, they should have exhausted all of their appeals before seeking executive clemency, except you can file a compassionate release while a clemency petition is pending or vice/versa.  Also, these are TIPS to help people navigate the process, but there is no absolute RULE so keep that in mind when reading the following:


Write to either the Pardon Attorney, Liz Oyer, the President, or both!  We suggest you write to the Pardon Attorney Liz Oyer and you’ll see below how to cc the President if you so wish.


Use the proper letter format. DO NOT DOUBLE SPACE a letter. Double spacing is used in motions, legal briefs, etc. not in letters. We use the format where everything is flush on the left margin.  Date goes first, then the name and address of the person you are sending the letter to, such as:  (others like to put the date in the middle of page)

(fill in the date)

Office of the Pardon Attorney
Ms Liz Oyer

RE: Clemency Petition for John/Jane Doe (It is important to identify the applicant your letter refers to either here, and/or in the first sentence of the first paragraph.)

Dear Ms Oyer
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 200530


Use the first paragraph to get directly to the point…

I am writing in support of _________________ clemency petition. Explain here what your relationship is to petitioner (petitioners) mother, cousin, friend, relative, co-defendant, etc.   I  firmly believe a commutation of (first and last name) is worthy of clemency due to the following reasons:  (rehab, years served, medical, remorse, family issues at home, etc) personalize your reasons and chose what applies to you/your family.   (Make it your own – this is just an example…you can expand or be more specific.)


Waste time on sentences that don’t matter – such as “I know you are busy…”  or “I’m sure you get a lot of letters…”  that’s their job and there’s no reason in stating the obvious.  Just get to the point and make every sentence pertain to John/Jane Doe and why they deserve to be chosen out of tens of thousands of applicants.


Use the second paragraph to establish your connection to the prisoner, if you have one and/or explain why they deserve clemency.

You can elaborate more on your relationship with Earlie (or John Doe) by sharing a story, such as I have known John since the third grade…we grew up together and played sports/basketball/? or s/he was a very good student, etc.  You may know some hardships this person went through, as in domestic violence, divorce, wrong crowd, dropped out of school, drug addiction, or trauma – if so, you can share. 

(Create a positive, healthy image.) I always remember John as being a very compassionate person, that cared deeply about family…etc. (Add more reasons why you think John/Jane deserves clemency) John/Jane has taken advantage of many programs offered by the BOP and has a clear record of conduct. (give all reasons they have earned clemency) Not only does John deserve clemency, but his children deserve to reunite with their father/mother who were only 3 and 7 when s/he went to prison… (Or) Jane’s mother is in ill health and my concern is that she may pass away before Jane is released, which deprives a mother and daughter of a very important bond in the evolution of their relationship. I can’t imagine the anguish I would feel if I could not be at my mother’s side – the very person who brought me into this world – at the moment when she will depart.


Use the third paragraph to summarize:

I want to commend you for great work you are doing. I’ve seen many videos and events where you have spoken openly about the clemency and pardon process. I’ve read the website since you became the new Pardon Attorney and am impressed with all the new content and videos provided for those of us who do not understand the rules and need guidance. 

Please (or I pray you will) give strong consideration to _________’s clemency petition and find him/her worthy of your mercy.   I hope you will submit _____’s petition with a favorable recommendation to the President for his approval and that he will have mercy on my (friend, cousin, or mother) … Thank you for your time and consideration regarding this extremely important matter that has the potential to favorably impact many lives. (Again, expand on this – write from the heart.)

(if you are willing to offer the prisoner a job, or if they will be living with you or if you will help support them – please STATE that to help establish they have a strong support system when they come home.) 

Sincerely yours,

(Hit return 4 times and sign your name in this empty space, above your typed name.)

Write your name

If you intend on sending a copy to the President Biden

cc: President Biden 
 (cc stands for “carbon copy” so add whoever you want to send a copy of this letter to – you can keep adding names) 


Have someone review the letter before you send it to catch any errors and provide feedback. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but fresh eyes will catch typos. If you don’t have anyone to preview it, go ahead and send.


Provide details of the prisoner’s case. Let them do that in their petition. I had someone write, “Amy was completely innocent…” and I’m sure they think they were helping me.  I was NOT completely innocent and I admitted to my role in the conspiracy. According to the conspiracy statute, if someone furthers the conspiracy one step, we are guilty for the entire scope of the conspiracy – it’s not fair, but that’s the law and until we change it, we are guilty.  So, please don’t provide details of a prisoner’s case that you may or may not be clear about, as it may contradict what is in their petition. You can refer to it as a case of injustice, but just be careful about trying to make the case FOR the petitioner.  That’s why you should personalize this letter as one coming from YOU, and why YOU would like to see justice served by encouraging the President to grant clemency – or if writing the – Pardon Attorney – to ask that he submit a favorable recommendation to the President to grant the prisoner’s clemency petition.


End the letter by adding your collective voice as someone who will personally benefit if John/Jane is released and if they will have a positive impact on your life – explain how. If you don’t know John then get creative with how society will benefit. If you are someone who will provide aide to John post-release, state that you would hire John if he needs employment, and/or if you are part of a large support group that will assist Jane in her re-entry process with whatever tools s/he may need to succeed, such as a job, financial aide, computer, etc.

Again, each case is different, some people have large families that will fill that gap – others don’t – so use your judgement and work with others you know are writing letters.  Cover all the bases to ease any concern as to how this person will survive, if released. We want to establish the prisoner will have every tool they need to succeed, and be a productive citizen/asset to society if afforded this rare opportunity.


Get on a soapbox about the drug war or a particular type of drug that you believe should not be illegal. If this is a marijuana case, it is ok to point out that marijuana has been legalized several states and public opinion has changed drastically – but be careful. This is not the time to carry on about public policy or your personal opinion. Just be logical, fair, and respectful.

I hope these tips have been helpful.

Amy Ralston Povah
The CAN-DO Foundation
P.O. Box 6468
Malibu, CA 90264

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