Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten up for parole (for the 5th time)

Originally published at: Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten up for parole (for the 5th time) | Boing Boing


I don’t know if Van Houten should still be in prison or not, but I know we need to decouple these decisions from the career prospects of politicians who are forever at the mercy of the voters. There’s a reason most judges are appointed rather than elected.

There is absolutely no way that Gavin Newsom has more insight into what kind of danger Van Houten or any other potential parolee poses to society than the members of the parole boards who spent who-knows-how-many hours carefully reviewing those cases. But Newsom has little to gain and potentially much to lose by letting her out of prison, so behind bars she will likely stay.


The “eager participant” moniker is hard to shake off for her. She was on tape shown to have zero remorse and in my opinion look like she enjoyed what she did. Now a lot of time has passed since then, but that’s what people see when they look at her, a monster.


The way I see it, she wasn’t born a murderer. She went from an innocent baby to the cult member who helped stab two people to death in less than 19 years.

Now she’s had well over twice that amount of time to become someone different—and hopefully someone better—than the person who committed those crimes. Who am I to say she hasn’t?


Supposed that the decision is to release her on parole.
I find that society has change greatly without her (not necessarily for the better) since her incarceration that interrupting her routine could be considered “cruel and unusual” and make her more likely to re-offend to get back into her comfort zone.

Barring the above, I think an answer, beyond a politician’s sound-bite, is in order to have a successful integration, from either a supervised release or accommodations from within the state that meets needs and expected outcomes of all parties.

Blue Hat, “how do I make this work and be successful with it.”

(I am trying to say the answer is complicated, and that it merits a table-top discussion amongst the stakeholders to make sure nothing is missed or amiss.)

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Well, I guess you’re the parole and social reintegration expert.


Boy, if it isn’t the lack of justice in the justice system, it’s the proliferation of prejudice in the media! While a murderer could be seen as the sharp edge of the sword, news commentators / self-appointed judges are the blunt edge of the sword. Ooof!

Now that is truly a scary thought.
(shuddering with the realization that my amateur assessment has thrust me into the role of “subject matter expert.”)

Human butchers really should stay behind bars. Just say’n.

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I highly recommend this podcast episode featuring her.

My niece is a Christian and not one of these right wing fundamentalist crusader fake “Christians.” Despite the dogma against judging unless you have been judged and for mercy and forgiveness toward others she would keep Van Houten in prison for life. At what cost? What’s the point now of taxpayers spending probably over $75,000.year for her incarceration?

She’s 72, so work won’t be easy at that age. Or even to find. Especially with her background.

She’s been in prison her whole life - so she’s not eligible for social security and hasn’t put into a retirement account. Unless there’s some family money she can use; I don’t see how she’ll survive.


She stabbed Rosemary LaBianca sixteen times. I have nothing else to say.

A relevant question here is “is the person sitting in prison fundamentally the same person they were when they committed that crime?” In some cases, like Manson himself in his later years, the answer is “yeah, basically.” In other cases not so much. The experts tasked with answering this question as it relates to Ms. Van Houten have concluded she isn’t. Then they reached the same conclusion four more times. So why have a parole board at all if their recommendations are just going to get ignored anyway?

I know I’m not the same person I was at 19 and I’m still a long way from my 70s.


So, 3 years and 114 days per stab isn’t enough?


People who butcher other people should stay away from the rest of us. If the board’s recommendation eventually reaches a like minded soul and she is released, may she spend her days on an island, literal or figurative, far far far away.

She once was a person capable of butchering other people. That person belonged in prison, and was duly placed in prison.

I do not take it as a given that this elderly woman is still that person.

It’s only natural that many people would look at those kinds of crimes and say “there is no sentence too long for the person who would do such a thing!” But time marches on, and humans have a tendency to change with it, for better or worse. To deny even the possibility of parole is to deny the possibility of human change.


Life sentences really have no business existing at this point.

And unless there’s a pretty good reason to think she presents an active danger, there’s no point in keeping her in prison past her seventies.


I feel like as systemic issues:

  • Politicians shouldn’t be interfering with parole board recommendations
  • Prison sentences in the US are too extreme even for serious crimes
  • Society should look to have effective laws that actually minimize harm instead of making a spectacle of punishment.

But It’s hard for me to think of this case as a good example to use to in that argument.

Van Houten is unfortunate. It’s bad luck if the murder you committed is so infamous that a politician can try to win votes with it four decades later. I feel like, “I certainly got the unlucky end as far the the personal consequences of that murder I committed” is a complaint that doesn’t generate a huge amount of sympathy.


Wait, what? I didn’t know that about US Social Security. As a former felon, she’s not eligible? Or as someone who never worked? Or …?