HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell will leave office next month having signed more than twice as many pardons as any other governor in modern times.
Rendell has granted 1,059 pardons, according to the state Board of Pardons. His office said 29 more await action on his desk, and he expects to consider 34 others by the end of the year.
That shattered the previous record set by the late Democratic Gov. Milton Shapp, who signed 475 pardons during his tenure in the 1970s. Among other recent governors, Republican Dick Thornburgh signed 61; the late Democrat Robert Casey, 311; Republican Tom Ridge, 270; and Republican Mark Schweiker, who finished the final 15 months of Ridge's term, 338.
Rendell, the former district attorney and mayor of Philadelphia, wasn't immediately available to discuss the reasons for the increase. In response to a question about it, spokesman Gary Tuma said Rendell administration lawyers estimate there were about 10 times as many applications during his tenure than there were under Shapp.
Outgoing governors have traditionally been able to ask the Pardons Board to forward recommendations made in the governor's final weeks in office. Schweiker, Rendell's predecessor, issued 83 pardons a few days before Rendell was sworn in. The board meets over two days next week to consider 53 more applications.
The most common charges for which Rendell has issued pardons are shoplifting, other forms of theft and related offenses such as receiving stolen property, drunken driving and drug crimes. The dozens of pardons he has granted in 2010 include people convicted of possessing a weapon on school property, fraudulent use of credit cards, riotous destruction of property, prostitution and drag racing.
Many of Rendell's pardons come with conditions, commonly that if the offender is convicted of another crime, the pardon is canceled.