[Pnews] Herman Bell Gains Parole, as Cuomo, de Blasio Lose Ethics

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 27 11:21:58 EDT 2018


  Herman Bell Gains Parole, as Cuomo, de Blasio Lose Ethics

March 27, 2018

*BY SUSIE DAY | *Dear Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo,

You, as governor and mayor — New York State’s most powerful liberals — 
have argued constantly. I, along with millions of New York civilians, 
have endured years of your snark-attacks and antler-locks. Recently, it 
got really bad, when you, Governor Cuomo, insinuated that you, Mayor de 
Blasio, might be in league with Vladimir Putin to persuade Cynthia Nixon 
to run for governor. I felt like a kid asking God to “Please make Mommy 
and Daddy stop fighting.”

But then: Herman Bell. Who would have thought that a 70-year-old former 
Black Panther, granted parole after 45 years in prison for the 1971 
killing of two New York City police officers, would bring you two 
together? Finally, you agree! Each of you has railed against the New 
York State Parole Board granting parole, on March 14, to Herman. Mommy 
and Daddy are okay again!

    PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines

It’s ironic that you, Mr. Governor, a purported progressive, say you 
“disagree strongly” with the Parole Board’s decision, while you, Mr. 
Mayor, who’ve been called a communist — having gone to Nicaragua in the 
‘80s to support the Sandinista Revolution — went further, writing, in a 
letter to the Parole Board, that what Herman Bell did was “beyond the 
frontiers of rehabilitation or redemption” and that Herman should remain 
behind bars. Talk about progressive!

Progressive values are, in fact, what motivate me, a legally married, 
card-carrying lesbian, to sit here typing to you with real concern. Hey, 
I’ve been to Nicaragua, too. And I’m glad you guys agree about 
/something. /I just abhor what you’re agreeing about.

See, I’m one of Herman Bell’s friends. I didn’t know him back in the 
day, but I know him now. I’ve visited Herman in various New York prisons 
for the last 18 years. I know Herman to be an honest, compassionate, 
honorable man, to whom I would trust my life.

It stuns my heart to remember the acts for which Herman was convicted. 
Yet I’ve seen Herman take responsibility for what he did and express 
true remorse. I don’t mean to minimize anyone’s loss or pain. There is 
nothing that can ease it or bring back lost loved ones. But Herman was 
sentenced to 25-years-to-life; he’s served four-and-a-half decades. Why 
shouldn’t justice include a 70-year-old man, who poses no imaginable 
risk to anyone’s safety, getting out of prison to quietly enjoy his last 
years with his family and friends?

I would have thought that you, Mr. Governor, who’s spoken so often 
against mass incarceration, and you, Mr. Mayor, who curbed the NYPD’s 
stop-and-frisk tactics, would want to release one among the growing 
number of elders locked up solely for what they did generations ago. 
That you would want to take a little credit for the fact that human 
beings are capable, within the New York State correctional system, of 
actual correction. Redemption, if you will.

Herman is someone who, arrested at age 25, spent his years inside 
obtaining three college degrees, mentoring hundreds of incarcerated 
people, coaching prison football teams, and initiating outside projects, 
like a garden for growing food to feed inner-city people. Someone who, 
inside prison, has not once engaged in a violent act — even last 
September, when prison guards assaulted him and slammed his head 
repeatedly onto a concrete floor. A man who, given a New York State 
“risk and needs” assessment (COMPAS), consistently scores the lowest 
possible risk for “felony violence,” “recidivism,” and “absconding.”

Under your administration, Governor Cuomo, the New York Parole Board has 
been modernizing its criteria for release. It’s moving away from relying 
solely on the “nature of the offense,” as it used to (how can anyone 
outside a sci-fi thriller possibly go back in time and correct their 
wrongs?). It now also looks at things like someone’s age; length of time 
served; how a person has changed; what they’ve accomplished inside 
prison; disciplinary record; and reentry plan, including family, jobs, 
community standing. The Board looks at who someone is /today/.

These are solid, progressive — yea, Enlightenment — standards, and I, as 
a queer, embrace them. They allowed Herman Bell, on his eighth 
appearance before the Board, to be granted parole. By not defending the 
Board’s measured, lawful decision, both of you risk letting this 
high-profile case be used by vigilante forces to overturn the Board’s 
humanitarian changes that can affect thousands inside New York prisons.

Let’s distinguish justice from gratuitous vengeance. On one hand, I’ll 
admit that, like everybody, I read news stories about people who do 
horrible things and wish they would rot in jail. But that’s me, 
alienated, finding cheap therapy by imagining someone else’s suffering. 
On the other hand, there is the concerted drive for endless punishment 
propagated by people like those in the Patrolmen’s Benevolent 
Association, who want anyone who hurts a police officer to rot in jail 
for real. These are law enforcement professionals, devoted to making 
prison the worst place in the world, where they themselves will never 
spend one day. “We’re gonna get you, we don’t care why you’re behind 
bars,” said PBA president Patrick Lynch, responding to Herman’s parole 
decision. “We just care that you are behind bars.”

You, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, are standing back in quiet 
accord as the PBA tries in every way it can to intimidate the Board into 
rescinding Herman’s parole so that Herman dies in jail. The PBA has 
issued an outlandish “safety alert,” supposedly to “provide back-up” to 
NYPD officers, should Herman be released. Its latest trick has been to 
get media outlets to pit Manny — the brother of Waverly Jones, one of 
the slain officers — against Jones’ son, Waverly, Jr., who has for years 
expressed forgiveness of Herman and his desire for Herman’s release.

Those efforts aren’t a cry for justice; they’re the remorseless 
exploitation of grief-stricken people to get what the PBA wants: public 
assurance that the police are the unalterable, ungovernable face of 
order, if not law. A militarized gang, whose lives matter more than any 

Can we imagine these roles reversed? What if, for instance, NYPD officer 
Daniel Pantaleo spent four decades in prison for his 2014 strangling of 
Eric Garner? Would Panteleo get out, finally, on parole? Would we let 
him? This is a problem I’d love to have. Unfortunately, you, Governor 
Cuomo, and you, Mayor de Blasio, have more in common than you might like 
to admit: a fear of your own cops and abandonment of your progressive 


/Susie Day is the author of “Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power,” 
published by Abingdon Square Publishing./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20180327/ecc407d0/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list