Why should we keep murderers in prison until they die? Parole makes moral sense, even for cop-killers
Co-authored by Bernard E. Harcourt – March 20, 2018
The New York state parole board has come under fire last week for granting release to Herman Bell , who was convicted of the murder of two police officers, Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini, in Harlem in 1971. Bell had been sentenced to 25 years to life and is now scheduled for release from prison at age 70, nearly 50 years after the crime.
Bell’s release could come as early as April and follows seven earlier applications for parole. His latest, successful, application follows policy changes last year that express a shift in philosophy whose merits should not be lost in the fraught conversation about this particular case.
For many years, two considerations determined parole release in New York: the seriousness of the original crime and the parole applicant’s criminal history. People who had committed serious crimes and were convicted of very long sentences were seldom released. New York’s prison system became home to a growing number of old men who had committed crimes decades earlier, in their 20s.
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