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In 2012 Mississippi governor Haley Barbour created a firestorm when he granted clemency to over two hundred people. In response to bipartisan outrage, Barbour explained that he was acting on a “Mississippi tradition.” Drawing on clemency records and articles in prison publications, the chapter explores the tradition of clemency in the context of the Jim Crow South with a focus on Mississippi and Louisiana, where clemencies were routine. Through a discussion of customary practices that regularly shortened the sentences of even those convicted of murder, as well as an analysis of clemency petitions, the chapter explores the relationship between white supremacy and mercy. If the line between freedom and incarceration was blurred by Jim Crow, then the physical boundary between inside and outside the prison was porous as well.

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