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

“I feel good. I have anxiety but in a good way,” Brown said as he walked into the parking lot of the Bolduc center. “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 the release of Brown.

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 a clemency for Brown to allow him to attend.

But in July, Gov. Janet Mills denied the petition for clemency.

Brown was sentenced in 2010 for the attempted murder of James Sanders, a former U.S. Marine, outside an Old Port nightclub in the summer of 2008. Both men were involved in a fight with others when Brown took a gun from his waistband and 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 years 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, according to a Portland Press Herald article.

Evangelos, who has championed criminal justice reform, said that the sentence imposed on Brown was more than twice as long as sentences imposed by the same judge in cases in which the victim was killed.

In testimony, Evangelos gave earlier this year for the return of 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 in July. “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.”

But Brown was released early Oct. 18 from his sentence by 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 the participants, such as curfews, which are provided to the former prisoners by the probation officers.

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, thanking him for his advocacy.

Evangelos said while he is pleased that Brown has been released, he is disappointed Brown won’t be allow to attend the college in Virginia so that 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 that Brown gave upon earning his associate’s degree. Evangelos has been working for the past four years for the clemency and then the early release.

With this victory, Evangelos said there is still a long way to go to reform Maine’s criminal justice system in which people are given overly harsh sentences and when the ability to challenge wrongful convictions is limited.