In the latest TV series Scandal episode, "Get Out of Jail, Free", Olivia asks Mellie, a senator from Virginia, to release a prisoner imprisoned in Virginia, assuring that this is within her powers. I know this is just a TV series and even she might mean she has powerful friends or non-lawful tricks, but out of curiosity, is that possible or is there anything in US constitution or US law that let a senator get a prisoner out??

FYI, the senator did get two prisoners out, one imprisoned for embezzlement and another one for killing a president's son (and is put in Supermax!)

  • It would be a scandal (and the end of the career of the senator) if word got out about that abuse of power... Nov 4, 2015 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


No a senator does not have that power under their elected position. However politics does not work like that. A senator could know the governor of their state very well. Governors could issue pardons which will release people from jail. Governors can also command a certain person to do something, like release a prisoner.

  • Ditto for the President of the United States.
    – Libra
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:37
  • Yes as an aside the President does not have the authority to release prisoners held under the authority of a state of the United States. However the president can enforce federal judicial writs, subpoena state prisoners, and other procedures which could result in the release of a state prisoner.
    – Viktor
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:42
  • 1
    This actually recently occurred in California when Arnold was exiting. He signed a pardon for the son of a politician he had dealings with. He even made some interesting comments after the fact. articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/03/local/…
    – Colyn1337
    Nov 4, 2015 at 18:39
  • The legislature can also pass a "private bill" in the Congress and most states that can apply to just on prisoner (in a prison it has jurisdiction over).
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 23, 2016 at 4:34

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