Social Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Should former Manson follower be granted parole?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23288 points ) July 6th, 2010

Story here.

Personally I really struggle with people that are incarcerated for long (sometimes life-long) periods of time for crimes they have committed as “children”. I’m going to use that word loosely, as Van Houten was 19 at the time of the crime. Are teenagers and young adults capable of making a wise decision in every life changing situation thrown at them? Particularly in a case like this, which is somewhat unique, in that Manson obviously had quite a powerful grip on his followers. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to think that she was a confused and foolish 19 year old girl. 40 years later, I can easily believe that she is fully rehabilitated.

But, I get the impression that rehabilitation is rarely the point under circumstances like this. I don’t think most people care if she’s a perfect angel now – but instead feel like someone that has taken part in such a heinous crime should “rot in prison.”

What do you think? Do people that are most likely truly rehabilitated deserve a second chance? Or do the terrible actions of their youth define them until the end?

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24 Answers

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If after 40 years, we can’t believe rehabilitation for a confused teenager is possible, then we should just execute all people convicted of murder and sentence to life in prison.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence a poll on this story was showing almost 70% of people opposing parole. Of course that isn’t a hardcore statistic, but I think it speaks volumes of the mentality we have towards violent criminals regardless of specific circumstances of the crime and/or perpetrator.

Thammuz's avatar

Personally i don’t think the parole should be granted, not because of the nature of the crime, but for the motive. She acted by order of a personally picked authority figure, without questioning it.

To me, this is bad regardless of what she did, and i hardly believe that the instinct to delegate decision making and ethics to someone else can be corrected with anything, prison, flogging, whatever. To me, what she’s doing now is accepting some other authority figure to tell her what she should do, and it’s just a matter of time before her master changes once more, not necessarily back to manson.

I have less qualms with murderer/arsonist Varg Vikernes being set free because at least with him we know what his motives are.

With this woman, not so much. If she was stupid enough to gladly kill people for someone she decided was in charge of her choices, Who knows whose orders she will follow next?

Mind you, my opinion is firstly pragmatic, because i think she would still be potentially dangerous if left at large.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Thammuz excellent points. Slightly OT here, but I have a good friend that actually knows Varg personally, and claims that all he ever talked about in his last years incarcerated was going home and spending time with his family. Kind of funny to imagine someone that is so obviously full of hate and violence… wanting to go home and snuggle on the sofa with their kids.

Thammuz's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie That’s interesting…

plethora's avatar

@Thammuz
She acted by order of a personally picked authority figure, without questioning it

It would be interesting to know your age. Were you alive when the crimes were committed? Are you fully acquainted with the details, especially the eerie control Manson had over his followers? I was. I followed the story closely, and it was horrendous. No one picked Manson as an authority figure. For whatever reason, and under the influence of drugs, they came under the demonic influence of Manson.

Manson was a mad man, and still is.

Leslie Van Houten committed one act in the space of one hour when she was 19 years old and under the demonic influence of a mad man, and on drugs. She has been a model citizen of prison for 40 years.

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone”

filmfann's avatar

I think someone, especially a teen, can be rehabilitated over the next 40 years, but rehabilitation is not the focus of our prison system. It is mearly detention.
I don’t think Leslie should be paroled. This was a heinous crime. I struggled with it a few weeks ago, when another Manson follower, who was not involved in the Tate or LaBianca killings was denied parole (this guy was involved in the killing of Shorty Shay).

Thammuz's avatar

@plethora No one picked Manson as an authority figure. For whatever reason, and under the influence of drugs, they came under the demonic influence of Manson.

And you know this how? And furthermore how does this change anything? SHE took the drugs, SHE did what she was told.

Leslie Van Houten committed one act in the space of one hour when she was 19 years old
Does it matter wether it was in an hour or twenty years when all it takes to kill someone is a splitsecond?

You followed the story in real time, good for you, i wasn’t born yet, and i have the same exact material you had minus the hysteria (i assume you never met him or the others involved, correct me if i’m wrong).

Manson was a cult leader, not different from any other deranged messiah-like figure you could name. Maybe better at it than others, but still a cult leader.

THEY started following him, and acted on his behalf, i give two shits if they were stoned off their asses while they did it, the drugs didn’t forcibly intrude themselves into their systems.

And please stop adding “demonic” as if it changes shit in this whole argument. He’s a human being, demons don’t exist. And the fact that his ability baffles you doesn’t make it supernatural. You sound like my high school history teacher, who was convinced that hitler made a pact with satan, because no human being woud’ve done what he ordered otherwise. To which i reply: bullshit, human beings are rotten and barbaric with or witout leaders, the difference is that if a leader orders it they feel even less guilty.

Manson is a really charismatic madman that racked up a bunch of stoner idiots (a cathegory made mostly of weak and docile minds to begin with) and got them doing his bidding fooling them into thinking he was deep and spiritual and all that nonsense. They were looking for a figure like that, and found it.

You didn’t find cynical businessmen in the manson family, why? Because people who don’t look for a spiritual authority figure to think for them don’t find one.

She has been a model citizen of prison for 40 years.
Good for her, i’m sure they like her a lot in prison. Hadn’t she let someone else decide what her life was going to be in the past, then maybe now she would be a model citizen of outside the prison.

Decisions have consequences, getting stoned off your ass and killing people on behalf of a mental case is a decision, if she had been smart enough to stay away from the drugged up maniacs then maybe she’d be out now, and hell will freeze over before i feel sorry for someone whose bad decisions came back to bite his ass off.

As for “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” I never killed anyone, and i don’t believe in sin, or god, so i couldn’t care less. I’ve made my bad decisions and payed for them, if anything with struggle with my own conscience, and i don’t think anyone should be allowed a free pass.

She didn’t make a small mistake, she didn’t steal a car, she started deliberately wrecking her life at 14 with Manson being the final stop of an already abundantly self destructive road. A last stop that took the shape of stabbing a woman 16 times while somebody else held her down.

If you think i will ever believe that she could stop being dangerous to society and herself, you’re sadly mistaken. People who completely give up their freedom of choice voluntarily to an individual other than themselves don’t deserve that freedom to begin with.

plethora's avatar

@Thammuz You are clueless and a danger in any position of authority yourself. Give one piece of evidence over the last 40 years that would indicate Houten is a danger to society. Just one.

And yes, most emphatically, being alive at the time the events were taking place and aware of what was happening at the time makes a huge difference in understanding how it has played out now. Also in appraising the demonic power that Manson had over them.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Brainwashing is a powerful tool. She certainly did put herself in a position that made her susceptible… but I’m positive that no one realized that before it was too late. I think most teenage girls want to feel accepted, and that’s what I imagine happened in this situation. She was obviously rebelling and looking for acceptance in the wrong places… but I think that is what most teenagers do. They may not end up in an environment where they could potentially be dealing with someone as demented as Charles Manson, but the basic puzzle pieces are all relatively normal for that of a teenager. In my opinion, of course.

john65pennington's avatar

You may think she has paid for her crime, her parents may think she has paid for her crime, but i promise you the dead womans parents will never agree. i understand this woman now has earned two degrees, while in prison. this is good. at least it occupied her time. but, what can an ex-convict with two degrees do, if she is released from prison? i also understand she has been a model prisoner and thats good. her crime was commited actually on a dead person. stabbing a corpse. i know she was on drugs, but thats no excuse. i have mixed feeling concerning her release from prison.

marinelife's avatar

I think considering that she only stabbed the corpse and was not involved in actually killing the LoBiancas that she should get parole.

CMaz's avatar

Leslie Van Houten is an old woman.

Her life has been taken away for what she did. Let her out, for what it is worth.

With the stipulation that she can not profit from the experience.

plethora's avatar

@john65pennington I can see your point

whitenoise's avatar

@Thammuz

You wrote:
“Personally i don’t think the parole should be granted, not because of the nature of the crime, but for the motive. She acted by order of a personally picked authority figure, without questioning it.

To me, this is bad regardless of what she did, and i hardly believe that the instinct to delegate decision making and ethics to someone else can be corrected with anything, prison, flogging, whatever. To me, what she’s doing now is accepting some other authority figure to tell her what she should do, and it’s just a matter of time before her master changes once more, not necessarily back to manson.

I have less qualms with murderer/arsonist Varg Vikernes being set free because at least with him we know what his motives are.”

I can not disagree more with you. Though superficially well thought through, your reasoning is very flawed.

Psychological experiments (quite often very debatable ones, from an ethical point of view) have proven that not just Van Houten, but most people would kill under the guidance of an authority figure. Even under one that they don’t know at all. This is a common human trait.

Take a look here and rethink your stance…. please.

tranquilsea's avatar

I think this question is less about the particulars of this case and more about why we put people away in prison. Do we do it for punishment/retribution or rehabilitation? The punishment side of this argument would never want her out because, of course, nothing she could say or do would bring back the murder victims. Whereas the rehabilitation side would state that she is no longer a danger to society.

Murderers are released from prison all the time…every day. People are reacting to the celebrity in this case.

Fourteen year olds do not have the ability to make informed decisions in the situation she was in. It is easy to see, in hindsight, where her decisions led her five years later.

It is a strange world we live in when we pin medals on people for wiping out whole villages and cities and call that heroism. And before everyone jumps on me I know the difference here but I still call it strange.

Thammuz's avatar

@whitenoise I’m perfectly aware of that experiment. Most people are also complete morons, i don’t see why this should make her crime any lighter. Nazi germany is a perfect example of how right that experiment is, and this doesn’t excuse any of those who actually did murder someone in that circumstance. Other factors, like being blackmailed into doing it, might excuse them, but not this. And she wasn’t blackmailed, she gladly followed Manson, stoned, granted, but she did drug herself, so that’s no excuse either. So i’m sorry, yes, people murder other people because their leaders tell them to.

Shall we let thugs loose because they only did it because their boss told them to? Shall we let islamic terrorists do what they want because their holy book/clergymen/imaginary friend told them to?

I’m sorry, no, this isn’t an excuse. This is worth jack shit. Her leader isn’t any less guilty, but she did stab a woman in the abdomen repeatedly. And while most wounds were post mortem and surely she didn’t give the killing blow, the fact that someone telling her to was enough for her to do it, is good enough of a reason to lock her up and throw away the key.

@plethora Give one piece of evidence over the last 40 years that would indicate Houten is a danger to society.
How can someone who has been removed from society for the last 40 years have behaved as a danger to society? And even if she didn’t show any behaviour of this, i don’t care. What she did before getting, and rightly so, jailed for 40 years is more than enough.

You are clueless and a danger in any position of authority yourself.
At least i wouldn’t deliberately order anyone to kill somebody else.

Also in appraising the demonic power that Manson had over them.
Again with this demonic power bullshit. Listen, if you want to appease the crochety old women demographic, suit yourself, but please stop using that term, it’s simply ridiculous. People have done the same things in the name of god. It’s hardly demonic power, if anything it’s human stupidity.

yes, most emphatically, being alive at the time the events were taking place and aware of what was happening at the time makes a huge difference
I’m sorry, i don’t take my decisions based on empathy. if i did and i had any authority, all it would take to get out of jail would be for a murderer to go puppy eyed on me.

All i see in this case is a person that has proven herself to be dangerous, if anything because she isn’t capable of telling right from wrong when someone charismatic enough is telling her what to do. You say she has changed. She might have, but i don’t think risking another murder is a feasible idea. I’m sorry, i just don’t forgive “mistakes” that big.

To quote star trek “The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few” And in this case, this means dangerous people remain locked up to protect those who haven’t done anything yet.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@tinyfaery oops. thank you!

whitenoise's avatar

@Thammuz “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?”

What needs?

An important element of a functioning democracy is to protect the few from the many, as well. Your aggression towards someone you don’t know, without a good personal reason, I find frightening.

Thammuz's avatar

@whitenoise An important element of a functioning democracy is to protect the few from the many, as well. Actually that’s precisely how democracies don’t work, seeing how elections are by majority vote. They should, in theory, but in practice they never actually will. That’s why gay marriage isn’t allowed here, or in the US.

And by the way you keep talking about her as if she did nothing wrong. It’s not like she didn’t do anything to get a life sentence. She earned that. And something more too. In ancient times, if you pulled shit like this you lost all privileges of being a citizen, you were on the same level of slaves and cattle, all we do now is put them in prison for life, she’s lucky she was born in this era.

What needs?
The need to be safe, for one. I know that keeping one person in jail isn’t going to change squat, but it’s a matter of consistency. We remove these individual from society because they’re dangerous. She wasn’t sentenced to 40 years. She was sentenced to death, then the sentence was automatically converted to life. Life means the state deems her beyond rehabilitation, and i happen to agree, for once.

This is not someone who has payed her debt to society, she will never actually pay her debt. Her self indulgence and stupidity caused her life to go to shit and to take another life with hers. I have no sympathy for her, she made her decision, now she pays the price.

Your aggression towards someone you don’t know, without a good personal reason, I find frightening.
Do i have to have a personal reason to despise someone who was braindead enough to shut down her good judgement to the point to kill someone only because she was ordered by some lunatic who claimed to be a guru? I don’t think so. I despise the whole cathegory. I despise islamic terrorists, i despise street thugs that brutalize people because they’re payed to, i despise parents who would rather pray and let otherwise curable illnesses eat away their sons than go to a doctor, just to protect their childish beliefs.

And i despise her more than all of them, because she threw herself into that voluntarily. She wasn’t brainwashed as a child, she wasn’t born in poverty, she has no excuse. And even those woudn just be partial excuses anyway. She was a middle class child whose parents divorced. Potentially, she had no limitations, she could’ve been useful to society, she could’ve done much more. She chose to throw it away, no, even worse, she chose to do the opposite and actually take something away from others.

It’s not a personal reason. But it’s a more than valid reason. I can forgive a lot. I can fogive people who break the law for survival, i can forgive people who break the law on principle, i can forgive people who break the law but nobody gets hurt. I won’t forgive people who hurt others for fun, profit or stupidity. Not now, not ever.

josie's avatar

I say let her out. The evidence at the trial indicated that she did not actually wield a weapon. She was an accessory to be sure, but I doubt if she is dangerous. I vote for parole. The operative killers will never get out. One already died in prison.

plethora's avatar

@Thammuz The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few
This isn’t from Hitler, is it?

Thammuz's avatar

@plethora no it’s from Dr Spock. And i see what you did there, but i’m not trying to gas her, i’m just saying that she’s been sentenced to life with good reason. A sentence that, unlike what hitler did, she earned regardless of her race.

I’d say she earned because of her creed-motivated actions, but still, actions.

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