(State House News Service) –Actor Mark Wahlberg’s pardon request remains on the back burner, a top state official said Wednesday.
“His petition is pending,” said Charlene Bonner, chair of the Parole Board, which also handles pardon and commutation recommendations and decides whether to send them to the governor.
Bonner on Wednesday appeared before the Governor’s Council — an eight-member panel that votes on commutations and pardons recommended by the governor — as part of a “public policy forum.”
Pardon and commutation requests rarely make it to the State House, and when they do, they tend to occur towards the end of a governor’s tenure.
Pardons are forgiveness of the offense, while commutations reduce the period of incarceration.
Governor’s Councilor Jen Caissie asked about Wahlberg’s application, referring to him as “Marky Mark.” Before his acting career, Wahlberg was a member of the music group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
Caissie quipped that she had heard the Funky Bunch’s song, “Good Vibrations,” on the way into the meeting, prompting her to ask the question.
Wahlberg, who grew up in Dorchester, is one of 300 people who have a pending application for a pardon or commutation, according to Bonner.
Wahlberg submitted his request to the Parole Board in November, asking them to wipe away an assault and battery and drug possession conviction.
Governors hand down the guidelines for the Parole Board to follow when processing applications. Asked by Governor’s Councilor Michael Albano if the board’s process was on hold due to the governor not issuing any guidelines so far, Bonner said, “Correct.”
Bonner said new governors often come in, review the guidelines and apply their own.
Governor Charlie Baker’s chief legal counsel, Lon Povich, told the News Service that the guidelines will be disseminated in “due course.”
During the meeting, Bonner was also asked about the Supreme Judicial Court ruling in 2013 that said life sentences without the possibility for parole for juvenile offenders were unconstitutional.
The court decision put a “huge burden” on the Parole Board because it created another group of individuals, totaling 65, for the agency to handle, Bonner told the Governor’s Council.
About 45 individuals are currently eligible for parole as a result of the decision, according to Janis Smith, the board’s executive director and general counsel, who accompanied Bonner.
The board has held 18 hearings and issued 13 decisions since the court ruling, Bonner said. Six bids for parole have been denied while seven were approved, she added.
The cases vary, but most of the individuals have served over 20 years, she said.
Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff asked Bonner if the seven-member board needed additional money in its budget. Gov. Baker’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal sets aside $18.8 million for the Parole Board.
“With regards to the budget, we feel that we have been afforded a good budget through this administration,” Bonner said. “We’re level-funded.”
The Parole Board is made up of several attorneys, a victim advocate, a person who has experience with the Department of Corrections, a former parole officer, and Bonner, who is a forensic psychologist.
The governor nominates the members and they are approved by the Governor’s Council.
Bonner was appointed chair of the board in Nov. 2014, and she has served as a member since 2011. She has three years left in her current term as a board member.
“I want to stay,” she told the Governor’s Council.
When Albano noted that there is a history of Parole Board chairs applying for judgeships, Bonner said she does not plan to apply.
There is “no apprenticeship” for being a Parole Board member, she said. “You have to grow into it.”