May 15—More than a dozen people turned out Saturday to hear Brandon Flood, secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, talk at the Shear Magic Barber Shop.
"I just want to speak to people — meet people where they are," he said.
Visitors piled into the business along Market Street to hear about the pardoning process and have one-on-one conversations with Flood after he was finished interacting with the group.
Andres Taylor, a 42-year-old Johnstown resident, stopped by because of a criminal record he has from when he was 18 years old.
"I just came here to see what's going on," Taylor said.
The Greater Johnstown graduate received marijuana-related charges while still in school and served time because of it.
He said he was supposed to go to Pennsylvania State University to play football but instead spent time in jail.
Taylor has tried to not let the mistake affect his life and for the most part he said it hasn't.
However his past has recently caused trouble with his business, Knockout Construction.
Taylor said he bid on a job and a background check was done that resulted in him not getting the work.
Carmina Taylor — no relation — organized Saturday's event for people just like the local businessman.
The founder of "We Can't Wait Pennsylvania Statewide Coalition" contacted Flood after visiting the area and hearing residents' stories.
The event was then connected to Shear Magic through Carmina Taylor's friendship with barber shop owner Calvin Berkins.
"My philosophy in life is 'If you know better, do better,' " Carmina Taylor said.
She and Flood have traveled throughout the more rural parts of the state spreading awareness of the commonwealth's pardoning system.
Flood, a former convict, shared the finer details of how the application process works with the attendees and also covered other avenues that might suit them, such as expunging or sealing a record.
"There's a lot we don't know," one guest stated.
Flood also covered the changes he's made since serving as the secretary of the pardons board, including waiving the application fee, streamlining the process and rewording the application itself.
There have also been improvements to the administrative side of the board and Flood said the application will be available online at the end of the year.
One of the questions the secretary fielded during the group conversation was about the length of the process.
Typically, the traditional route takes three years, he said, but the expedited version is about half that time.
"Slowly but surely this process is going to speed up," Flood said.
Additionally, he advised the visitors that the more time that's passed since they've been charged the better.
Berkins said it meant a lot to him to hold the event in his barber shop and to have Flood make the trip to Johnstown to speak to the residents.
"I think it's a really big deal," he said.
Carmina Taylor had the visitors write their names and contact information on a piece of paper and told them she'd be in contact to help start their pardoning journey.