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Repairing Reputation and Restoring Rights: For Individuals Who Want To Improve Reputation and Status

Part of's Self-Help Series

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this self-help guide. We encourage you to print and mail to your pen-pals.

Having been incarcerated can certainly come with a stigma. We can pretend it’s not there, but we know it is. Employers, neighbors, even family members can look down their noses at people previously arrested and incarcerated. Be that as it may, it is also a new day in America. Mass incarceration and mass arrests have affected so many citizens today that the former stigma associated with incarceration is simply not as powerful as it used to be. Just about everyone in the U.S. has now experienced having a loved one or family member who has been incarcerated, so the stigma is not what it once was.

In fact, one major campaign, ‘Ban the Box’, has been successful in 18 states and is gaining momentum. ‘Ban the Box’ asks employers to remove the check box from job applications asking if applicants have ever been incarcerated. Even President Obama directed federal agencies to “ban the box” on federal job applications.

Coming home, being gainfully employed, and never returning to prison are certainly ideal ways to rebuild your life and reputation. This guide will walk you through some other options that may be available to you. You may have more opportunities than you realize!

Record Sealing

Based on reports of recruiters and HR professionals surveyed, the United States appears to have the greatest number of companies with corporate policies requiring online reputational checks.

Record sealing is the process of removing from general review all records associated with a court case. However, the records do not typically completely vanish and may still be reviewed under restricted circumstances; in most instances, it requires a court order to unseal records once they are sealed. Many states do order records to be destroyed after they are sealed. Once a record is sealed, in some states, the contents are legally considered never to have occurred and are not acknowledged by the state.

Laws pertaining to sealing a record vary greatly from state to state. If you are interested in pursuing the act of sealing your record, you don’t necessarily need an attorney. However, like most legal proceedings, it is advised. In some cases legal professionals such as paralegals will offer their assistance with this at a discounted rate from that of an attorney. You must verify that you are eligible for record sealing before beginning the process. Requirements vary from state to state.



Having your record expunged is typically more effective than just having it sealed. Once a record has been expunged, it essentially can be stated that the expunged incident did not occur. There are some limitations to this rule depending on which state you reside in. In some states, you must seal a record (see above) before you are eligible for expungement. Just as with record sealing, you may want to employ the services of an attorney or legal professional to help you apply.

Mugshot Sites

A new and somewhat unfortunate trend is the rise of mugshot websites. These sites typically take all public arrest information programmatically from official online record sources, including booking photos, charges, addresses, and other information associated with an arrest and make it public for people to find said record on a search engine. Additionally, these sites are very good at search engine optimization. This means when people search your name and you have past arrests, these sites tend to rank very well in the results. For a hefty fee, the website will usually offer to remove your posting, usually between $40 and $400. However, it doesn’t prevent another website from doing the exact same thing. This can make it incredibly difficult for anyone with even an arrest (regardless of the outcome in court) to ever move past the incident. Paying for the removal of your information is an option you may elect to use. Reports are often mixed with doing this. It is also worth noting that this practice is currently under litigation in multiple courts and may possibly be ended by future rulings.

Federal Pardons

The President of the United States can grant pardons for all federal offenses, excluding impeachment. Generally speaking, applications for pardons are referred for review and non-binding recommendation by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, an official of the United States Department of Justice.

The application for a presidential pardon can be downloaded at the following URL:

Applications also be requested by mail:

Office of the Pardon Attorney
145 N Street N.E.
Room 5E.508
Washington, DC 20530

Additional Resource! If you need letter-writing tips, our Writing a Professional Letter Self-help Guide is a great resource.

Writing a Professional Letter Self-help
P.O. Box 10
Edgewater, FL 32132 USA

* Prison staff or pen-pals can also print this guide at

State Pardons/Clemency

While the President presides over pardons for federal offenses, the individual governors in each state ultimately preside over state offenses. Some states have a board of pardons, while others are overseen by the parole board, and some directly by the Governor’s office. For information on obtaining an application for a state pardon, you would need to write your respective governor’s office and ask for one. Don’t plead your case in your initial letter. Simply state that you would like an application, and provide a self-addressed stamped envelope if possible. The individual options for each state should be listed in the application sent to you. The address for each state is as follows:

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles
PO Box 302405
Montgomery, AL 36130-2405

Parole Board
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1800
Anchorage, AK 99501-3570

Arizona Board of Executive Clemency
1645 West Jefferson, Suite 101
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Arkansas Parole Board
Two Union National Plaza Bldg.
105 W. Capitol Avenue, Suite 500
Little Rock, AR 72201

Governor's Office
State Capitol
Attention: Legal Affairs
Sacramento, CA 95814

State of Colorado
Executive Chambers
136 State Capitol
Denver, CO 80203-1792

Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles
55 West Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702

Kent County Courthouse
Courtroom 1 (unless otherwise notified)
414 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901

The Office of Executive Clemency
Florida Commission on Offender Review
4070 Esplanade Way
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2450

State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334-4909

The Governor of Hawaii
State Capitol, 5th Floor
Honolulu, HI 96813

Commission of Pardons and Parole
P.O. Box 83720
Statehouse Mail
Boise, ID 83720-1807

Illinois Prisoner Review Board
319 East Madison Street, Suite A
Springfield, IL 62701

Indiana Government Center – South
Room E321
302 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2278

Iowa Board of Parole
510 E 12th Street Suite 3
Des Moines, IA 50319

Kansas Department of Corrections
ATTN: Prisoner Review Board
714 SW Jackson, Suite 300
Topeka, KS 66603

Office of the Governor
700 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 4060

Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole
P.O. Box 94304
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

State of Maine Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency
111 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

Maryland Parole Commission
6776 Reisterstown Road
Baltimore, MD 21215-2314

Executive Clemency Coordinator
Executive Clemency Unit
12 Mercer Road
Natick, MA 01760

Office of the Parole Board
Pardons and Commutations Coordinator
Post Office Box 30003
Lansing, MI 48909

Board of Pardons
1450 Energy Park Drive
Suite 200
St. Paul, MN 55108

State of Mississippi Parole Board
660 North Street
Suite 100A
Jackson, MS 39202

Department of Corrections
Missouri Board of Probation and Parole
P.O. Box 236
Jefferson City, MO 65102

State of Montana
Board of Parson and Parole
1002 Hollenbeck Road
Deer Lodge, MT 59722

Board of Pardons
P.O. Box 94754
Lincoln, NE 68509-4754

Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners
1677 Old Hot Springs Road, Suite A
Carson City, NV 89706

New Hampshire
Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301

New Jersey
New Jersey State Parole Board
Attn: Clemency Unit
P.O. Box 862
Trenton, NJ 08625

New Mexico
Office of the Governor
Attn: Pardons
State Capitol Building, Suite 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

New York
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Executive Clemency Bureau
The Harriman State Campus – Building 2
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12226-2050

North Carolina
Governor's Clemency Office
4294 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4294

North Dakota
Clerk, Pardon Advisory Board
Division of Adult Services
P.O. Box 1898
Bismarck, ND 58502-1898

Ohio Parole Board
770 West Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43222

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board
P.O. Box 53448
Oklahoma City, OK 73152

Governor of Oregon
900 Court Street NE
Salem, OR 97301-4047

Board of Pardons
333 Market Street
15th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126

Rhode Island
Office of the Governor
82 Smith Street
Providence, RI 02903

South Carolina
Division of Legal Services
Attn: Pardon Application Processing
2221 Devine Street, Suite 600
P.O. Box 50666
Columbia, SC 29250

South Dakota
South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles
P.O. Box 5911
Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5911

Board of Parole
Division of Board Operations
404 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 1300
Nashville, TN 37243-0850

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757

Utah Board of Pardons and Parole
Attn: Pardon Specialist
448 East Winchester Street
Suite 300
Murray, UT 84107

Vermont Crime Information Center
45 State Drive
Waterbury, VT 05671-1300

Pardons Staff
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
P.O. Box 2454
Richmond, VA 23218-2454

Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 40116
Olympia, WA 98504

West Virginia
Office of the Governor
State Capitol
1900 Kanawha Boulevard E.
Charleston, WV 25305

Office of Governor Scott Walker
115 East Capitol
Madison, WI 53702

Wyoming Board of Parole
3120 Old Faithful Road, Suite 300
Cheyenne, WY 82002

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT PARDONS: Pardons being granted are extremely rare. Your prison record typically needs to be an exemplary one. If there are any pending fines associated with your incarceration, they will typically need to be paid in full prior to submitting your application. Letters from prison officials, former presiding judges (serving or retired), educators, pillars of the community, etc. may all be welcome additions when applying. What you have done with your time in prison will have a huge impact. Inmates who pursued educations in prison are going to see better results than inmates who got into trouble during their incarceration.

Online Reputation

Today just about everything is available online. This is especially true in the case of criminal charges. Negative online reputations can frustrate job opportunities and hurt future endeavors. Here are some steps that we recommend after release:

  • Reviewing articles about your crime and reading comments from people who don’t know you and don’t know your case can be frustrating, but the best approach is to ignore them. If you start replying to online comments, you may only reignite interest in older negative articles about you.
  • Get a account. Fill it out completely. These accounts not only rank high in search results when someone searches for your name, they are specifically designed to network with professionals and gain employment.
  • Volunteer at community events. This is a great way to give back to the community and an opportunity to earn and build a good reputation. Volunteers are often covered in news stories. If you want to get recognized for the good you’re doing, simply start doing good.
  • There are many paid services online that will actively work to repair your online reputation. These are typically very costly. However, this may be an option you wish to pursue. A search will return many options if you’re interested in a paid service.
  • Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

    - Abraham Lincoln

    If you want to take a less public approach to asking that negative content about you be removed, consider writing the author of the content. Just remember that news websites are typically very unlikely to remove a story unless there was an error. This suggestion applies more to comments made on forums, Facebook, etc. However, if a news article incorrectly states information about your case, you may have luck in getting them to correct that information. Just be prepared to provide evidence for any claims of posted misinformation.

  • You can also consider the creation of other social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter once released. These can help push down negative results on search engines. Conduct yourself in a respectful way. Avoid posting photos that are not in good taste. Avoid using profanity online. Never engage in online arguments or negative commenting. Everyone has a past, but not everyone behaves like they have a future. You do. Embrace it!

Success story or suggestion? We want to know what worked for you so we can share it with other inmates.

If you have a suggestion to make about this resource, please do so at:

Self-help Suggestion - P.O. Box 10 - Edgewater, FL 32132 USA

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this self-help guide. We encourage you to print and mail to your pen-pals.