Community Issues

Former Lifer With Powerful Story Hired to Help Other Inmates

Naomi Blount is part of a mission by Pennsylvania's two top leaders to fix a system they say is unfair.

Most of us can't imagine doing something that would land us in jail, let alone what it would be like to face life behind bars. But that's Naomi Blount's story. Now she's gotten the chance to not only change her story, but to help other inmates change theirs too.

To know where Blount is coming from. first you've got to watch the powerful TEDx performance Incarcerated that she and a group of other women inmates, "The Lady Lifers," gave at Pennsylvania's Muncy State Prison:

(Video: YouTube)

Now Blount's sentence has been commuted, she's out of jail, and has been hired, along with former life-sentence inmate George Trudel, to help other prisoners to apply for commutation to have their sentences reduced or even wiped out. "This is the first time in the history of commutations in Pennsylvania, and possibly the nation, that former offenders will fill these roles," said Pennsylvania's Lt. Governor John Fetterman who is chairman of Pennsylvania's Board of Pardons.

(George Trudel, above, will work with male inmates and Naomi Blount will work in the state's two women's prisons)

Blount and Trudel served a combined 68 years in prison even though they didn't kill anyone. Because Pennsylvania has mandatory life without parole for second-degree murder, in many cases people who are convicted of the actual act of murder end up serving shorter sentences than their accomplices who got second-degree murder. Fetterman and Governor Tom Wolf are on a mission to change that.

"Neither of us wants to see anyone die in prison as a result of sentencing that's clearly inequitable."

(Above: Former lifer Brandon Flood is PA's Secretary of the Board of Pardons)

Trudel and Blount join Brandon Flood, who was pardoned earlier this year and then appointed by Fetterman as Secretary of the Board of Pardons. The board hears cases for clemency and votes on whether to recommend commutations and pardons. Blount and Trudel will help streamline the process of getting inmate cases before the board.

"George and Naomi are bringing something immeasurable to the lifer community: hope for a second chance at life," Fetterman said.

(Naomi Blount and The Lady Lifers)

Fetterman has taken steps to improve the clemency process in Pennsylvania, including:

  • Streamlining the application process
  • Eliminating the application fee
  • Expediting review for the more than 700 lifers who are age 65 or older

According to Fetterman, 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."

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