Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Organized for Vengeance: Police Unions and Parole

The imminent parole release of former SLA member Sara Jane Olson (aka Kathleen Soliah) and plans for her to serve her parole term (maximum three years with annual reviews) in Minnesota, her home state as a fugitive for nearly twenty years, has stirred opposition from police unions. Olson is not being released early. California law provides for parole supervision in the community at the completion of a prison sentence. The purpose of parole is not to further punishment, which is satisfied by the prison term, but to assure public safety and facilitate the successful reintegration of the former prisoner into the community. In Olson's case both of these goals would be well served by returning her to Minnesota where she lived crime free for years and where she has a family and extensive support network.

The police union opposing her transfer to Minnesota, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, claims that Minnesota cannot be trusted to keep as close an eye on her as California (read the LATimes story by Andrew Blankstein). But Olso never was a crime threat. After her involvement with radical group, Olson apparently lived a normal life centered on family and community. Every study of parole has shown that the odds of re-offending are reduced when former prisoners return to a supportive family environment. The real reason the Police Protective League wants to keep her in the Golden State is vengeance. Prison time is supposed to repay one's debt to society. For LAPPL however, crimes against police can never be repaid, and those that have threatened police no matter how long ago or how different the circumstances, must be hunted and haunted to their graves.

This may reflect the actual sentiment of police officers, but let us be clear, it has nothing to do with public safety, and everything to do with a desire for vengeance.

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