Statement of Support for Parole Board Determination in re. Herman Bell
The undersigned join in strong support of the recent determination by the Parole Board to grant release to Mr. Herman Bell. This decision is the right outcome in this case based on the criteria used to determine parole. We must not allow politics to undermine the rule of law, nor should we discourage an agency from correctly performing its duties by allowing it to be bullied or cowed by the loudest voices and those with their own agendas.
The Parole Board, acting as an independent body and critical component of our criminal justice system, is charged with deciding whether an individual is ready for release and reentry. For far too long, parole determinations have been based solely on the nature of an individual’s past criminal behavior, rather than on remorse, rehabilitation, and a plan for successful reentry. This backward-looking approach ran counter to the purpose of parole, the goal of a safer and more just society, and to the rehabilitative aims of our criminal justice system. The September 2017 regulations approved by the Parole Board, by including factors related to the individual’s readiness for successful reentry, represent a critical course correction. These changes are essential to undoing the system of perpetual punishment and mass incarceration.
The Parole Board made its determination regarding Mr. Bell’s release with consideration to his past crime, the wishes of the victims' families, and the substantive evidence of his rehabilitation during his nearly 50 years of incarceration. The board also took into account Mr. Bell’s very low risk of recidivism and the support of a broad network of individuals and community organizations. It also recognized that Mr. Bell has taken responsibility for his actions and demonstrated remorse.
We applaud the Parole Board for implementing the new regulations in Mr. Bell’s case and for having the courage to move towards the kind of transformational criminal justice reform that is needed.
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