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Editorial: Hiring Brandon Flood is a step in the right direction

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Editorial: Hiring Brandon Flood is a step in the right direction

Image via Pennsylvania Board of Pardons

Image via Pennsylvania Board of Pardons

Image via Pennsylvania Board of Pardons

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons hired a new staff member to lead the office on April 8. The hiree, Brandon Flood, is more than qualified. He has worked as a lobbyist and a policy aide at the Department of General Services, and has also been the executive director of the state House Legislative Black Caucus. And most importantly, he has had first-hand experience serving time behind bars.

Flood was convicted of possession with intent to deliver cocaine and a firearms violation. As a result, he was sentenced to nine years in prison, according to CBS Pittsburgh. Flood plans to draw upon his own experiences within the justice system to streamline pardon systems, speed up the clemency process and raise public awareness. This is a major step forward in normalizing the rehabilitation of inmates and allowing them to participate fully in civil society and benefits the justice system as a whole.

Formerly incarcerated individuals often to struggle to find work upon the end of their sentence. According to Prison Policy, they are unemployed at a rate of about 27%, compared to the 4% national average.

Currently, the state of prison reform in the United States isn’t exactly something to be proud of. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that within nine years of release, about 83% of former prisoners have been arrested again for at least one crime. Norway has the lowest recidivism rate with only about 20% of former prisoners arrested again upon release. Perpetrators of petty crimes and minor offenses deserve support when it comes to reintegrating themselves back into society.

To start his time on the board, Flood hopes to make the expungement application process more accessible cost-wise. He feels the $1,500 he had to pay to get his arrest record sealed is discriminatory, since many defendants do not have the money to cover it.

There is more that he can do than just advocate for a smoother expungement process, though. Flood’s new job puts him in a position where he can learn the ropes and input his opinions, though he isn’t in control of the entire department or the only person making decisions. Most of the time, majority approval is needed to to recommend clemency, and the final decision is left up to Gov. Tom Wolf. Other more serious cases that involve life sentences or the death penalty require a unanimous vote to move forward.

His voice is vital to the Pennsylvania justice system, since it brings forward a perspective that people who have never been incarcerated might have trouble understanding.

“It is about empathy,” Flood said on Monday while speaking at a Capital News conference. “And oftentimes, when it comes it to these particular positions of influence, decision-makers do not possess that empathy. With me, you do have someone who is empathetic.”

Flood offers different perspectives to justice reform debates that have historically not included the formerly incarcerated. His position exemplifies to everyone, both the incarcerated and the free, that conviction does not equal the end of your life.

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Editorial: Hiring Brandon Flood is a step in the right direction