In an effort to improve efficiency and lower barriers to entry, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard recently launched the nation’s first paperless pardon process. Individuals seeking clemency can now use an online portal to fill out the necessary forms.

The new pardon portal was first mentioned in Daugaard’s State of the State address earlier this year, but wasn’t officially launched until May 16.

“I am proud South Dakota is the first to have an online, paperless pardon process,” said Daugaard. “The task of making state government more efficient and accessible requires a constant effort.”

(Image: South Dakota Department of Corrections)

The new portal streamlines the process for both the applicant and the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which reviews pardons before passing them along to the governor.

Rather than going through significant paperwork with little guidance, the new portal is interactive and guides the applicant through the process. The portal assists users in determining eligibility, completing the application, and submitting the request online. The portal is mobile-friendly and users can complete the entire process on their smartphones and mobile devices.

After registering to use the portal, individuals are able to choose which type of pardon they’d like to apply for–with help from the portal in determining which they qualify for. Applicants then have to provide their personal information, criminal history, mental health status, and family background, as well as how they have improved their community through community service or volunteer work. There are a total of 17 steps to the application process. Once completed, the application is sent to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The board determines whether the application should be sent to the governor for further review. While the portal is free to use, the state still charges fees to obtain court documents and assessments.

The portal is only the latest project in the state’s initiative to improve efficiency and government services through civic tech and improved digital tools.

“In the last six-and-a-half years we have also created a Boards and Commissions portal and an administrative rules website, and put more online than ever before,” said Daugaard. “Economic development grants, restaurant inspections, payroll information and vendor payments are now posted and easy to find.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs