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11/04/2019

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman Hires Two Commuted Former Life-Sentence Inmates to Improve Commutations Process in PA

Harrisburg, PA - Commuted former life-sentence inmates George Trudel and Naomi Blount started their new jobs today as commutations specialists for the Office of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, furthering Fetterman’s efforts to remake the commutations process in Pennsylvania.

Trudel and Blount, who served a combined 68 years in prison despite never having taken a life, will visit prisons to assist inmates who are applying and to educate prisoners about the commutations 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. “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.”  

Blount and Trudel join Brandon Flood, who was pardoned by Governor Tom Wolf earlier this year before Fetterman appointed Flood as Secretary of the Board of Pardons.

The five-person Board of Pardons hears cases for clemency and votes on whether to recommend commutations and pardons to Governor Tom Wolf. Trudel and Blount will assist in streamlining the flow of cases to the board. The two were hired in part to minimize the backlog created when procedural issues or questions arise about an inmate’s application. Both had previously been cases in that backlog.

Blount will be assisting women at SCI Muncy and SCI Cambridge Springs, both of which house female inmates. Trudel will work with the male lifer population in prisons across the state, with particular emphasis at SCI Phoenix, where he served more than 30 years, and SCI Dallas, which has a high concentration of life-sentence inmates.

“George and Naomi are also bringing something immeasurable to the lifer community: hope for a second chance at life,” Fetterman said. “If you haven’t taken a life, the commonwealth shouldn’t take yours through unending incarceration.”

Fetterman, as chair of the Board of Pardons, is particularly focused on the nearly 1,200 people in Pennsylvania who are serving mandatory life sentences without parole even though they haven’t killed anyone. In Pennsylvania, a person can be charged with second-degree murder if someone died during the commission of crime, even if they weren’t present, for example, when an accomplice killed someone.

The mandatory life sentence without parole for second-degree murder has created a glaring disparity in which those who were convicted of the actual act of murder serve shorter sentences than accomplices who were sentenced to second-degree murder. 

Such was the case with 52-year-old Trudel.

The lieutenant governor’s efforts to address this disparity enjoy the full support of Governor Tom Wolf.

“Neither of us wants to see anyone die in prison as a result of sentencing that’s clearly inequitable,” Fetterman said.

Second Chances

Fetterman has taken numerous steps to improve the clemency process in Pennsylvania, including streamlining the application process to make it more user-friendly and reducing the required application fee to zero dollars.

The board is also expediting review for the more than 700 lifers who are age 65 or older. It can cost the state more than $70,000 per year to house an elderly life-sentence inmate.

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

In September, the Fetterman-led Board of Pardons sent Gov. Tom Wolf nine recommendations for sentence commutations. That’s the highest number of commutation recommendations since the early 1990s.

Blount and Trudel are available for interviews upon request.

MEDIA CONTACT: Press Secretary Christina Kauffman - 717-712-3316

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