Kathy Boudin's Time

The Nation, September 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

Kathy Boudin's Time


Kathy Boudin's parole from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility after twenty-two years is welcome and overdue. Welcome not because of her lingering celebrity status as a former Weather Underground fugitive but because parole is entirely appropriate for any inmate who has used her incarceration for the education of herself and other prisoners, who has fulfilled the terms of her sentence and who presents no threat of recidivism. Overdue, because the parole process had been stalled amid the high emotions still surrounding the 1981 Nyack Brink's robbery in which she was a passenger in the getaway vehicle--a crime that resulted in the murder of police officers Edward O'Grady and Waverly Brown, and of Brink's guard Peter Paige.

To some, Boudin is a symbol of the worst of the 1960s. But the way New York Governor George Pataki exploited the continuing grief of surviving family members to bury the reasonable policy of parole under unreasonable vengeance represented the worst of 1990s crime politics. The two commissioners who finally voted for Boudin's release, Daizzee Bouey and Vernon Manley, showed courage--and a sane, competent grasp of why parole exists.

Many questions are raised by the most recent chapter in Boudin's life, among them: If, as it is said, one of the tests of a civilization is the way it treats its criminals, should we not see Boudin's story as a clear demonstration that rehabilitation ought to be a principal goal of incarceration? At the same time, isn't it wrong for Boudin's case to eclipse those of other prisoners who have earned the right to parole but are left languishing in overcrowded prisons because they lack the means or high profile to bring their cases to public attention? …

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