Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
About the Associated Press story “Ex-Manson cult member may get parole, tells of 1969 murders in graphic detail” (Saturday, April 16, 2016).
I do not understand parole. I don’t particularly care for it, either. I think if a government is going to presume to sentence people to terms of incarceration (or worse) then it ought to have the courage to abide by its policy and judicial rulings. I understand that incarceration is expensive and that there is a case for paroling inmates who are rehabilitated, who are deemed to pose no threat, or minimal threat either of recidivism or of danger to society. I understand it, but I don’t care for it. What I care about is the egregiousness of the state in the first place, and the conviction of one’s policy to honestly and fully apply it in the second case.
American mythology eulogizes and rewards personal transformation, rehabilitation, self-help and resilience, individual motivation and perseverance. At least, that’s what its advocates claim. Leslie Van Houten might have been rehabilitated/transformed in prison so that we do not know the woman she is today as her lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, says. But I know that Van Houten is a murderer. That hasn’t changed. I might be able to accept a reduction in her sentence - even a parole - as soon as she un-does her crime. As soon as the La Biancas whom she murdered are returned to life, health, wealth and happiness, then I might find it possible honestly to consider the merits of parole or a reduced sentence. I am waiting.
It’s not that I am mean, unyielding, stern, unforgiving and cold. On the contrary, I am very forgiving and warm. This is just how I express my love for my fellow men.
If Van Houten is paroled I look forward to hearing of her being hunted down by the La Biancas’ survivors, just as I hope Mark Chapman would be hunted down by John Lennon fans if he is ever paroled, or Jon Venables and Robert Thompson if their protective identities are ever penetrated.
Being forgiven means the removal of malice, not the erasure of guilt or culpability. Forgiveness does not mean absolution. Punishment is a virtue.
But I could be wrong.