Fetterman hires two former lifers to assist in commutations applications

    From left: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Gov. Tom Wolf, and Pardons Sec. Brandon Flood. (Photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

    Two formerly incarcerated people who served a combined total of 68 years in prison are going to put their experiences to work to help prison inmates through the state’s commutations process, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s office said Monday.

    Fetterman, who chairs the state Board of Pardons, said in a statement that George Trudel and Naomi Blount, who each had their sentences commuted, will visit prisons across the state to assist inmates who are applying for commutations and will educate them about the applications process.

    “This is the first time in the history of commutations in Pennsylvania, and possibly the nation, that former offenders will fill these roles,” Fetterman said in the statement. “No one is more suitable for these positions than two people who have gone through the process and who have valuable institutional knowledge. We’re grateful to have them on the team.”

    Trudel was sentenced to life in 1988 for second-degree murder. He was released from prison in April, Fetterman’s spokesperson, Christina Kauffman, said. Blount was sentenced to life in prison in 1982 for first-degree murder, but was later “forensically exonerated” in the crime, Fetterman’s office said. She was released from custody in July.

    Both started work on Monday morning and will be based in Philadelphia.

    (Naomi Blount and George Trudel, photo courtesy Office of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman)

    Blount will focus on assisting women inmates at the state prisons in Muncy, Pa., and Cambridge Springs, which both house women inmates, Fetterman’s office said. Trudel will work with male prisoners across the state, but will focus particularly on SCI-Phoenix, where he served more than 30 years, and SCI-Dallas, in Luzerne County, which has a large number of inmates who are serving life sentences.

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    Earlier this year, Fetterman announced he’d hired Brandon Flood, 36, who was pardoned by Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this year, as secretary of the pardons board. The hiring was one of a number of steps that Fetterman’s office has taken to streamline and simplify the once complicated pardons process.

    Those steps included the elimination of more than $65 in fees, which he said deterred many low-income Pennsylvanians from seeking clemency. The Board of Pardons saw a spike in pardon applications in the month after that policy went into effect.

    Fetterman’s office said the pardons board “is expediting its review of the more than 700 lifers who are aged 65 and older, who can cost the state more than $70,000.

    “Our primary focus is restoring justice for those serving these unbalanced sentences,” Fetterman said in the statement. “But if the morality of this situation doesn’t move you, the astounding cost to taxpayers is a motivating consideration.”

    An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.