Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stanley Bond: Potent Evidence of the Value of One Type of Criminal Punishment

When I was a law student -- I was a law student or the equivalent (e.g., "visiting scholar") for many years -- I questioned many things (although I was and remain politically inactive). I even questioned the value of criminal punishment.

In 1971-1972 I was studying at Harvard Law School for my LL.M. degree. Sometime in the fall of 1971 I ran into Kent Nelson. I had known him at Yale College. When I saw him in 1971, he was running an educational program for prisoners at the Massachusetts penitentiary at Walpole. I agreed to give a talk there -- on Christmas Eve. I gave the talk there to a small group of prisoners. I felt very sorry for the people there; although a few of them gave me a hard time, they seemed to be ordinary human beings and I didn't understand why they should be in prison.

One of the people there who gave me a "hard time" was Stanley Bond. Stanley Bond was a very bright fellow. He was also one of a group of people -- a group that included Susan Saxe, Katherine Ann Power, and William Gilday -- who planned a bank robbery that ended in the death of Walter A. Schroeder, a guard at the bank. (The shooter, William Gilday, was one of the inmates I spoke to and with on December 24, 1971. Power and Saxe were political radicals who were apprehended only years later.)

I left the penitentiary at Walpole that Christmas Eve feeling awfully sorry for the inmates there and being fairly convinced that the society that kept them there was a cruel one. However, six months later -- in June 1972 -- Bond killed himself when the bomb he was building prematurely exploded. This incident made me reconsider my doubts that criminal punishment does any good.

In the fall of 1972 I took my first tenure-track teaching job. I taught criminal law.

  • The good citizens of Walpole later persuaded the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to remove "Walpole" from the title of the penitentiary. The place is now called "MCI-Cedar Junction."
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    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

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