The Sister and the Lifers – Father Greg Boyle famously reaches out to gangbangers. Few know Sister Mary Sean Hodges, but her ministry is just as critical—helping men sentenced to life terms reenter the world, Los Angeles Magazine, by Miles Corwin (February 2, 2017)

“With its three-strikes law and draconian parole system—one of four states where the governor has final authority on parole decisions—California had long been a national leader in tough-on-crime policies. Shortly after Gray Davis took office, he announced that “if you take someone else’s life, forget it,” then blocked most of the recommendations for parole that crossed his desk. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approach was less harsh, but he still reversed 70 percent of the parole requests approved by the state board. Jerry Brown, however, has let stand more than 80 percent of the parole board’s decisions, with more lifers released in Los Angeles County due to its size than in any other part of the state. Brown, a former seminarian, has emphasized that redemption is the core of his Catholic faith, and he believes people can change. But the laws have changed as well.

In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that prisoners could not be denied parole based solely on the viciousness of their crimes. There must be evidence, the court said, that the prisoner continues to be a threat to public safety. Brown was also facing pressure from federal courts to reduce the state’s dangerously overcrowded prisons, and he signed a bill in 2012 that allows some prisoners to petition for resentencing if they had been incarcerated as youths and sentenced to life without parole. That same year voters passed Proposition 36, allowing reduced sentences for three-strikes prisoners serving life sentences for a nonviolent third strike.

Some victim’s rights advocates have decried the changes as a threat to public safety, but a Stanford study found that of 860 murderers paroled between 1990 and 2010 who were tracked by the university, only 5 committed new crimes and none were convicted of murder. Criminologists attribute this partly to the average age—the mid-fifties—of the lifers being released.

“We know that many prisoners age out of crime,” says Christine Scott-Hayward, assistant professor of criminology at Cal State Long Beach. “There’s an age-crime curve. It’s not that older people don’t commit crimes, but they commit far fewer. The peak age in the crime curve is the twenties and the early thirties. When you’ve served an extensive amount of time in prison and then get out, you’re no longer as great a risk to society. Parole officers have said some of the easiest people to supervise are ex-lifers who committed a murder. In some of the cases it was a one-off, and the circumstances that led to the murder have changed.”

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Blakinger, Keri. “Houston: Ground zero for the death penalty; Study shows Harris County is; most active in capital punishment, driven by district attorney choices.” Houston Chronicle (TX), 27 Nov. 2017, Houston, A, p. A002.

[Photo Below By Pat Sullivan, STF. In this May 27, 2008 file photo, the gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where Texas’ condemned are strapped down to receive a lethal dose of drugs is shown. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, viewed historically as little more than a speedbump on condemned inmates’ road to the death chamber, in recent weeks has halted the lethal injection of four inmates with execution dates approaching. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)]

Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside his Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties is available now from HarperCollins

“Dianne Lake met Charles Manson in 1967, when she was just 14. She didn’t participate in the horrific murders carried out by Manson and his followers in August 1969, but she was the youngest member of the Manson Family. And at 17, she was a key witness at the trial that resulted in his conviction, a death sentence that was commuted to life in prison, where he remains.”

Rolling Stone – Manson Family Memoir: 10 Things We Learned. In ‘Member of the Family,’ Dianne Lake – who was only 14 when she met Charles Manson – reveals new details of life in the infamous cult …

“The Manson girls used bulimia as a form of control -When the Family ended up in jail, the girls were not used to being fed three meals a day. Nancy Pitman and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme were concerned that the women would gain weight and therefore no longer be attractive to Manson. “We all made a pact that we would throw up our food instead of being forced by our jailers to gain weight,” Lake writes. :Nancy made it a regular habit and showed us all how to stick our fingers down our throats to rid ourselves of food. After a while, it became like a rush and a way to control the situation. I knew I would continue the habit even after I was released.” Lake started eating regularly again during her time in the psychiatric hospital. She had met someone with anorexia and felt guilty that she was throwing up her food on purpose when her fellow patient had no control over this.”

This is my least favorite life
The one where you fly and I don’t
A kiss holds a million deceits
And a lifetime goes up in smoke
This is my least favorite you
Who floats far above earth and stone
The nights that I twist on the rack
Is the time that I feel most at home

We’re wandering in the shade
And the rustle of fallen leaves
A bird on the edge of a blade
Lost now forever, my love, in a sweet memory

The station pulls away from the train
The blue pulls away from the sky
The whisper of two broken wings
Maybe they’re yours, maybe they’re mine
This is my least favorite life
The one where I am out of my mind
The one where you are just out of reach
The one where I stay and you fly