From top left, clockwise: Pa. Bureau of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood; Cedrick Kazadi, Millersville University chapter of the NAACP; and Blanding Watson, NAACP Lancaster, are seen in a screenshot from the NAACP Lancaster's webinar on the pardon system on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
From top left, clockwise: Pa. Bureau of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood; Cedrick Kazadi, Millersville University chapter of the NAACP; and Blanding Watson, NAACP Lancaster, are seen in a screenshot from the NAACP Lancaster's webinar on the pardon system on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

Brandon Flood, secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, broke down the process of applying for a pardon, covered recent changes and answered questions from the community Wednesday evening in an NAACP Lancaster webinar.

Flood said one of the most significant changes he has helped create in his two years as secretary is shortening the length of the application process for individuals with marijuana-related convictions.

What used to take three years now typically takes 12 to 18 months, Flood said.

Pardons for other charges still typically take three years to process, but Flood said he is working with the Board of Pardons to move more non-violent convictions into the expedited category.

According to Flood, the Board of Pardons received about 1,100 applications in 2019 and about 2,100 in 2020. According to the Board of Pardons statistics, 318 of the applications from 2019 and 570 from 2020 were recommended for approval to Gov. Tom Wolf.

Flood said one of the reasons he cares so deeply about his work is that he has been on the other side of the application process himself. As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted at the time, he began his job on the Board of Pardons just a few weeks after receiving a pardon himself.

About pardons in Pennsylvania

Two of the topics discussed by Flood during the webinar Q&A involved which legal rights are regained through a pardon and whether a pardon wipes an applicant's criminal record clean. The following answers are taken from the Board of Pardons' website:

What does a pardon do?

A pardon relieves any legal disability resulting from a conviction. These disabilities include, but are not limited to:

  1. The right to vote (only incarcerated felons suffer this disability in Pennsylvania, this varies by state)
  2. The right to be a juror
  3. The right to hold a public office
  4. The right to bear arms
  5. The opportunity to serve in the military
  6. The right to obtain/carry a firearm
  7. The right to travel internationally

If I receive a pardon, and then I'm asked by an employer or future employer whether I have been convicted of a crime, can I say no? How can I get my record cleared?

  1. Yes, you can say that you were never convicted of a crime because of the holding by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Sutley, 378 A.2d 780 (Pa. 1977). The Court held that a pardon is defined as "the exercise of the sovereign's prerogative of mercy. It completely frees the offender from the control of the state. It not only exempts him from further punishment but relieves him from all the legal disabilities resulting from his conviction It blots out the very existence of his guilt, so that, in the eye of the law, he is thereafter as innocent as if he had never committed the offense." It is recommended, though, that such a denial be explained as based on the existence of a pardon.
  2. However, in Pennsylvania a person may still be required to disclose a summary conviction after obtaining an expungement under the new Act 134. It appears that the only way for a person with a summary offense expunged under Act 134 to be legally protected in denying that they were convicted is if the expungement statute actually provided that protection.

As a young man, Flood was convicted of carrying an unlicensed gun and dealing crack cocaine, which landed him several years in a correctional facility in Chester County. Flood changed course during his incarceration, and after his release obtained work in Harrisburg as a legislative aide.

"Flood’s turnaround saga has become a talking point and a mission statement for his new job," Inquirer columnist Will Bunch wrote.

Flood said that after receiving his pardon, he had the goal of making the pardon process easier so that anyone could apply; regardless of wealth, race, county of arrest or any other factor.

Flood spent the majority of the webinar going through the steps of the pardon and clemency processes. The information can be found on the Board of Pardons website.

Besides expediting the process for marijuana-related cases, Flood said he helped simplify pardon applications so applicants can understand the requirements without needing a lawyer.

The event was moderated by Cedrick Kazadi, the president of the Millersville University college chapter of the NAACP, and featured opening and closing remarks from Blanding Watson, NAACP Lancaster's president.

More information about NAACP Lancaster events can be found on Facebook or by calling (717) 405-3115.

Olivia Smucker