Harrisburg, PA – A pardoned ex-convict who was previously convicted of felonies for drug dealing and weapons offenses has been appointed as the secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.
State Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman announced he had appointed the former prison inmate, 36-year-old Brandon Flood, to the job on Monday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“It didn’t require any courage on my part, it was just common sense,” Fetterman told the paper.
Flood will be one of the five-member panel tasked with overseeing the pardons process.
The lieutenant governor noted Flood was qualified for the job, due to his own recent pardon.
“What better example of a second chance than somebody who has taken that very same path and received that same second chance in order to help lead the reform and the changes that this board desperately needs?” Fetterman quipped.
Fetterman, who is chairman of the Board of Pardons, said that Flood is “a singularly unique person to have in order [to] help remake the process,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“In me, not only do you have an advocate who understands the clemency process firsthand, you have someone who understands what it’s like to bear that scarlet letter of a conviction on your sleeve,” Flood told The Patriot-News.
"Oftentimes, when it comes to these positions of influence, a lot of times the decision makers do not possess that empathy,” he added. “With me, you do have someone who is empathetic.”
Flood and his two sisters were raised by a single father – a college-educated military veteran who worked as a government accountant, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
But Flood rebelled against his father’s strict rules and high expectations for his success.
He kicked off his criminal career at the age of 13 when he and his friends began selling marijuana. By the time he was 15, he was peddling crack cocaine.
“I was trying to take the easy route,” Flood admitted.
His first arrest came at the age of 15, when he got into a physical altercation with then-Harrisburg Police Chief Charles Keller for refusing to take off his coat inside school.
Flood subsequently went to a four-month boot camp program operated by the state, and earned his high school diploma in a youth detention facility.
But he returned to selling drugs on the street, and ended up getting arrested again at the age of 18.
He refused a plea agreement in that case and landed himself in prison for four years.
After he was released, he went back to drug dealing, resulting in a five-year sentence for selling crack-cocaine and carrying an unlicensed firearm.
As he sat in prison, Flood learned about criminal justice reform, read Malcom X’s autobiography, and began to understand “where the true levers of power are located,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
He decided to pursue a career in politics when his prison sentence ended, and he worked his way into a position as a legislative aide.
Later on, he lobbied for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Service Employees International Union.
At the urging of former Board of Pardons secretary Mavis Nimoh, Flood began the process of applying to be pardoned for his three felony convictions.
In March, three years after his initial application, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf granted his pardon.
By then, he and Fetterman were already discussing Flood’s appointment to the Board of Pardons.
Flood said he wanted to make it easier for convicted felons to apply for pardons, and said that the possibility of having their criminal past wiped away will help motivate them to change.
“If they see this [a pardon] as a viable option, they will continue to be productive citizens,” he claimed. “They will see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Flood said he also wanted to make it easier and less costly for felons to have their convictions erased by having them expunged automatically, without a court process.
“The integrity of the clemency process will not be compromised or diminished in any way, shape, or form,” Flood added, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We will continue to not only consider the impact upon victims, but also live up to this restorative justice model.”