Sparkt Bridges

Making A Miraculous Second Chance Count

Naomi Wilson-Blount accepted that she'd die in prison. Now she's been released and working to give other women hope.


This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

When Naomi Wilson-Blount's parents gave her a piano for her 8th birthday, when she learned to play and sing, influenced by her mother's gospel roots, and when she cut her first hit record as a teenager, everyone imagined the bright career she had ahead of her.


As a teenager, singer Naomi Wilson's first single was described the "best record to come out of Philadelphia in a long time."Naomi Wilson-Blount


Wilson-Blount never imagined that her biggest musical contribution would come from behind the bars of a Pennsylvania prison.


And she never expected that 37 years after she was sentenced to prison for life, something so rare would happen that it surprised everyone. Or that today she'd be building bridges with other women in prison in Pennsylvania, making a difference in their lives -- from the outside.



Today Blount and her "lifer" counterpart, George Trudel, are hard at work as commutation specialists, helping other inmates cut through the red-tape of applying to have their sentences commuted.


"Now that I have the opportunity to be on this side of the fence, there's no way I will forget where I came from," said Blount. "I'm so glad I can give back and give the hope that [other inmates] so, so long for."


Naomi Blount and George Trudel, Pennsylvania's first "commutation specialists."Lt. Gov. John Fetterman


The two were hired by Pardons Board Chairman and criminal justice reformer, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman. Fetterman is championing reconsideration of cases like theirs, where inmates were sentenced to life in prison, even though they didn't actually "take" a life. In a few weeks, the Board will hear from 22 people who have applied or re-applied for commutation in the year since Blount and Trudel were hired, including 21 inmates serving life sentences.


In addition to their advocacy work, Blount and Trudel are also lobbying for better living conditions in Pennsylvania's prison system.


The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC. Life Changing Medicine.



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