With Eddie Conway

Former Black Panther Herman Bell to Be Released After 45 Years in Prison

After the New York State Parole Board determined Herman Bell’s release to be low risk and reasonable, New York police, aligned with tabloid news, went on a racist crusade depicting Bell as a threat

Story Transcript

EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to this edition of Rattling the Bars. I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore. Recently, a political prisoner, and prisoner of war, Herman Bell, has been granted parole by the Parole Board of New York City.

ROBERT BOYLE: … based on 45 years in prison, and the changes that Herman Bell has gone through during those 45 years. It’s also interesting to note, there’s probably people here who know the statistics better than I, that the lowest rate of recidivism is for people who are over 50. And in fact, people who have been convicted of homicide. The lowest rate of recidivism. And so, the data shows not only generally, but specifically to Mr. Bell, that he presents an extremely low risk of recidivism.

EDDIE CONWAY: There’s been a lot of controversy around his case as a member of the BLA. It involved the murder of a police officer, and every time he’s been recommended for parole, there been a huge outcry from the police department, and their associations.

PATRICK LYNCH: It’s disgraceful. This Parole Board needs to be fired. Because I know when you look into this killer’s eyes, you see evil. I believe in evil. These men are evil.

EDDIE CONWAY: This time, it seems that they have applied pressure to Governor Cuomo, and Mayor de Blasio, to try to circumvent the Parole Board’s decision, which is a legally-binding decision, to allow Herman Bell to be released.

ROBERT BOYLE: It is akin to the sentiments that drove the rush to mass incarceration in the 1980s, epitomized by Hillary Clinton’s racist use of the term, “Super Predators,” a comment that probably helped the cause of the elections. But this is the same kind of sentiment that’s being put out there today.

EDDIE CONWAY: The problem with this is that Herman Bell has served twice as long as any other lifer in relationship to this case, and the police seem to be placing more value on the life of a police officer than they do on the life of a regular citizen. And they seem to also not respect the law when it comes to the duly-appointed Parole Board making decisions within their purview of who should get parole and not.

ROBERT BOYLE: The seriousness of the offense was taken into account by the Parole Board, considering Mr. Bell’s latest application. It appears numerous times in their decision. It is an important factor, but not the only factor. It is also something that will never change. But people, such as Mr. Bell, do change.

EDDIE CONWAY: Thanks for joining me for this edition of Rattling the Bars.