Dean of Students appointed to Clemency and Pardons Board

Sebastian Squire, News Reporter

After six years of volunteer work across 11 prisons, Dean of Students Kazi Joshua was appointed to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s Clemency and Pardons Board in early October.

The purpose of the Board is to hear petitions for clemency — such as the commutation of a sentence or a pardon — and then advise the governor if the case merits the use of a pardon from the governor.

The Board serves in an advisory capacity, meaning that it makes recommendations to the governor, who has the power to grant a commutation, pardon or neither regardless of the Board’s decision. However, the governor rarely takes a different course of action than recommended by the Board. 

Initially volunteering as a sponsor, Joshua became involved with the Black Prisoners’ Caucus, which offers cultural and educational programs to incarcerated people. He is also the president of Fabian’s Fund, a prison education nonprofit based in Seattle. Joshua believes his experiences with these organizations will influence his time on the Board.

“I’ll be looking at the same things about responsibility, remorse [and] rehabilitation. I’ll also be considering to what degree [the] influence of race has to do with this condition,” Joshua said. “We know that there are a disproportionate amount of folks of color in the system. Why is that? So I’ll be very attentive [to read] the transcripts carefully, the trial record, and considering what might race have to do with it.”

Joshua has an extensive background in theology. 

“[Theology] is a teaching that says to those whom much has been given, much is expected … so for those of us who have had access to privilege, to education, the goods of life, it is incumbent upon us to contribute back to the common good. For me, this is one way of doing that,” Joshua said.

Hearing procedure typically begins with the petitioner (the one seeking a commutation or pardon) making an address. This is followed by an address by the prosecutor and law enforcement involved in the conviction, and finally one by the witnesses and victims of the crime.

Joshua explained that victims play a critical role in the hearings.

“The impact on victims is very important,” Joshua said. “If the prosecuting attorney who tried the case and the family who is impacted really is against the commutation, that weighs very heavily in the entire calculation [of whether to issue a recommendation to the governor].”

Governor Jay Inslee commented on appointing Joshua to the Clemency and Pardons Board.

“I’m thrilled to have been able to appoint Kazi to the Clemency Board. The Board will benefit greatly from his compassion and thoughtfulness as it tackles the very challenging petitions that come before it,” Inslee said.

In a press release sent to The Wire by Whitman Vice President for Communications Gina Ohnstad, President Sarah Bolton commended Joshua on his appointment. 

I am confident that Kazi will play a very important role in ensuring just and wise decisions for the Board and for the individuals whose futures will be under consideration,” Bolton said. “His appointment is a credit to his work with and on behalf of people who are incarcerated to promote their successful reentry into society.

One of Joshua’s main goals for his term on the Board is balancing the harms offenders have caused with their abilities to change as people.

“I feel humbled that the governor, [and] his staff, could find my service worthy of this very important Board. It’s definitely my commitment to be able to take into consideration the factors that are presented to us in our record, to seek the balance between mercy and justice and to try to do the right thing for the state of Washington,” Joshua said.

Joshua’s first hearing is slated for Dec. 9, 2022.