When it comes to redemption, we love to hear Bible stories from the pulpit on Sunday morning. On Monday morning, however, we’re not so sure about true-life stories on TV.
Reporter Ken Kolker refuses to let up on this story: The Michigan Parole Board has granted parole to 47-year-old Catherine Wood. Channel 8’s latest report once again quotes dire warnings by family members that this woman may kill again.
Well, it’s time to take a deep breath.
Catherine Wood has been in prison for 30 years for her alleged involvement in 5 nursing home deaths back in the 80s. News people call her the Nursing Home Killer.
Parole for her didn’t come quickly. In fact, 8 times in a row the Parole Board turned her down, claiming she didn’t show remorse. Last year, however, following a Public Hearing, the board approved her release. That got delayed when the Attorney General’s Office protested. But last week Kent County Circuit Judge J. Joseph Rossi determined that the Parole Board did not abuse its discretion. He said the decision came after hearing that she had done well in prison, was rehabilitated and no longer posed a threat.
Parole experts have a couple words of advice for our office, as well as for newsman Kolker. While comments of crime victims make for great news clips, Prison Policy Initiative contends: Survivors of violent crimes should not be allowed to be a part of the parole-decision process. The parole process should be about judging transformation, and survivors have little evidence as to whether an individual has changed.
And point number two: The “nature of the crime” or “seriousness of the offense” should NOT be the reason for parole denial. This from Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE). Both of these agencies review parole policies and decisions on a national level.
Two very good friends of mine, in younger days and influenced by drugs, committed absolutely terrible and brutal crimes. Both got their acts together while in prison. And, even though people raised hell about their parole, neither reoffended. Instead, both became outstanding citizens. In their cases, the Parole Board got it right.
I don’t know Catherine Wood, and can’t predict her future. But I do know she’s not getting a fair shake.
Judge Rossi’s opinion underscores our position that the nature of the crime is not a factor here, neither is one-sided news coverage, and neither is victim-opinion.
There’s a reason Norway has no sentences over 20 years. Rehabilitation can work.
Ms. Wood may surprise us.
Redemption is possible, and it is the measure of a civilized society.
Fr. Greg Boyle