WARREN — There were hugs and tears when 33-year-old Brandon Brown walked out of the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren on Monday after serving 12 years for shooting a man.

Brandon Brown speaks during a graduation ceremony in prison. He was the first prisoner in Maine to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Photo courtesy of Mark Brown

“I feel good. I have anxiety but in a good way,” Brown said. “It still doesn’t feel real but I think it will when we drive away.”

Brown was greeted by both his father, Mark Brown, and state Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, who has long advocated for Brown’s release.

Brown is the first Maine inmate to earn an advanced degree and was accepted into a program at Virginia’s George Mason University to study restorative justice and conflict resolution.

Evangelos had lobbied for clemency to allow Brown to attend. But Gov. Janet Mills denied the petition for clemency in July.

Brown was sentenced in 2010 for the attempted murder of James Sanders, a former Marine, outside an Old Port nightclub in summer 2008. Both were involved in a fight with others when Brown shot Sanders in the chest at close range. Sanders was partially paralyzed and later had a leg amputated. Justice Thomas Warren sentenced Brown to 27 years in prison with all but 17 suspended.

Sanders, who now lives in Georgia, did not attend Brown’s clemency hearing in April but communicated to Evangelos that he supported the request for commutation.

Evangelos, who has championed criminal justice reform, said the sentence imposed on Brown was more than double some others imposed by the same judge in cases in which the victim was killed.

In testimony Evangelos gave earlier this year to have Maine again use parole, the state representative said, “Let me get this straight, Maine has the money to arrest people, the resources to prosecute them, the resources to convict them and to incarcerate them at the cost of $50,000 per year while incarcerated, but when it comes to adjudicating an injustice, we hold a rummage sale.

“The quality of a civilization is measured by the degree of its empathy and belief in redemption. Yesterday, on that score, Janet Mills has failed on every count,” Evangelos said after Brown’s clemency request was rejected. “If Brandon Brown doesn’t qualify for clemency, no one ever will. Maine does not have parole anymore. This is the only process available to demonstrate rehabilitation and redemption.”

Brown was released early because of a state law that took effect eight hours earlier, which amends the supervised community confinement program. Participants of early release are allowed to hold jobs and are overseen by a probation officer. There are conditions imposed on participants, such as curfews.

When Brown came out of the Bolduc facility Monday morning, he had a long embrace with his father and then a long hug with Evangelos.

Evangelos said that while he is pleased that Brown has been released, he is disappointed he won’t be allow to attend college in Virginia so he can further serve society.

Brown will be living in the Bethel area near his father and is being considered for jobs, including one with the corrections department.

Evangelos first met Brown in 2012 at the prison. The legislator said he was impressed with a speech Brown gave upon earning his associate’s degree. The representative has been working for four years to get Brown freed.

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