Leslie Van Houten, one of the Manson family women who committed a string of vicious murders in 1969, is again being put forward for parole. She has applied many times and been previously approved, but her release was blocked by the governor. Now there is a new governor and it is unknown what he will do.
I consider myself a political progressive. I believe in forgiveness and humane treatment, and I am opposed to the death penalty regardless of the crime. I also do not believe in punishment for its own sake. But I do not believe Van Houten should be released. She was 19 at the time and she has apparently been a model prisoner for many years, doing everything she can to improve herself and help others. All this is commendable but it can't wipe out the terrible decision she made, as an adult, at that time. Could she have walked away? I don't know. Would the others have attacked her if she had not participated? I don't know that either. But she apparently willingly participated in an extremely vicious and violent act, holding the victim down while others stabbed her, and then repeatedly stabbing her as well. How can something like that be forgiven?
I can imagine how appealing it must be after all those years in a grey prison to walk free at the end of your life, to be able to sit on a beach once more and smell the sea air, to wander in a Redwood forest and hear the birds before you die. These are probably things she longs for. Freedom can be intoxicating after a lifetime of incarceration. But I don't think she should have them. What she chose to do is just too terrible.
I do think her old age should be made as comfortable as possible within the confines of the prison. I don't think she should be tortured. She should be able to enjoy whatever prison privileges she has earned as a model prisoner. But she shouldn't be set free. She hasn't earned that and she never will.