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      <div class="header reader-header" style="display: block;"> <font
          size="-2"><a class="domain reader-domain"
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/opinion/parole-meaning-sentencing.html">https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/opinion/parole-meaning-sentencing.html</a></font>
        <h1 class="reader-title">Don’t Let Parole Become a Meaningless
          Concept</h1>
        <div class="credits reader-credits">The Editorial Board - March
          18, 2018<br>
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                  <p data-para-count="411" data-total-count="411">Some
                    felt Herman Bell deserved execution or at least a
                    prison sentence of life without parole, but in
                    mid-1970s New York those weren’t options. No
                    question, Mr. Bell’s crime was a despicable assault
                    on society itself. In 1971, with fellow Black
                    Liberation Army radicals, he ambushed two police
                    officers in Harlem, repeatedly and fatally shooting
                    them as part of a war they had declared on the
                    United States.</p>
                  <p data-para-count="535" data-total-count="946">Rather
                    than being condemned to prison forever, Mr. Bell got
                    25 years to life. Now, at 70, and after more than 44
                    years behind bars, <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/nyregion/herman-bell-nypd-parole.html">he
                      has been granted parole</a> by a New York State
                    board, which found he had expressed “regret and
                    remorse.” Long in coming though the statement was,
                    he is said to have told board members this month:
                    “There was nothing political about the act, as much
                    as I thought at the time. It was murder and horribly
                    wrong.” In mid-April, he could be freed from his
                    maximum-security prison in the Hudson Valley.</p>
                  <p data-para-count="576" data-total-count="1522">Despite
                    angry reactions from law enforcement groups and
                    others, the process worked as it should if parole is
                    to amount to more than an empty word. Our prisons
                    call themselves “correctional facilities.” The New
                    York board found that Mr. Bell had indeed been
                    corrected, based on a solid disciplinary record, a
                    “sturdy network of supporters” and a likelihood of
                    his now leading a “law-abiding life.” To lock him up
                    forever even though deemed a changed man is to make
                    a mockery of his sentence: “25 years to life” is not
                    supposed to be cynical code for “life.”</p>
                  <p data-para-count="320" data-total-count="1842">Parole
                    is understandably fraught in cases of slain police
                    officers. Emotions run high, as does posturing by
                    the politically powerful. In New York, a notable
                    example involves two women who were part of a
                    leftist band that killed two police officers and a
                    guard during <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/21/nyregion/3-killed-in-armored-car-holdup.html">a
                      bungled robbery</a> of a Brink’s armored car in
                    1981.</p>
                  <p data-para-count="388" data-total-count="2230"
                    id="story-continues-1">Though plainly guilty of
                    involvement in the crime, neither of the women,
                    Kathy Boudin and <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/opinion/after-murder-a-second-chance.html">Judith
                      Clark</a>, fired a shot. They both went on to
                    become model prisoners who expressed remorse for
                    their actions. Ms. Boudin <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/22/opinion/freedom-for-kathy-boudin.html">was
                      paroled in 2003</a>. But the road to freedom has
                    been rockier for Ms. Clark, denied parole once again
                    last year despite having had her sentence commuted
                    by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.</p>
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                  <p data-para-count="490" data-total-count="2720"
                    id="story-continues-3">The Bell case is a reminder
                    of how brutal New York could be in the early 1970s,
                    an era of supercharged racial and political
                    hostilities. Mr. Bell’s victims, Waverly Jones and
                    Joseph Piagentini, were among 12 police officers in
                    the city shot to death in 1971. In contrast, it has
                    taken the past 13 years to record 12 officer deaths.
                    (The New York City police, too, are now far more
                    restrained, fatally shooting eight criminal suspects
                    in a typical year, compared with the 1971 toll of
                    93.)</p>
                  <p data-para-count="518" data-total-count="3238">Officer
                    Piagentini’s widow, Diane, remains implacably
                    opposed to freeing Mr. Bell. The parole board’s
                    decision, she said, “devalues the life of my brave
                    husband” and “betrayed the trust” of police
                    families. But relatives of Officer Jones have been
                    more forgiving. In a <a
href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/slain-cops-families-split-killers-freed-article-1.1589924">2014
                      interview</a> with The Daily News, Waverly Jones
                    Jr. said, “This man has been in prison for over 30
                    years and hasn’t gotten into so much as an
                    argument.” To continue to lock him up, Mr. Jones
                    said, “would only be for revenge.”</p>
                  <p data-para-count="73" data-total-count="3311">He’s
                    right. And vengeance is not supposed to guide a
                    system of justice.</p>
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