Political Prisoner Freed
Former Black Liberation Army member, Herman Bell, was granted parole after serving 45 years in prison for the deaths New York City police officers Joseph A. Piagentini and Waverly M. Jones. Both officers were fatally shot outside a housing project in Harlem in 1971.
Bell, 70 an inmate at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility, “could be freed as early as April 17,” according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website. In a recent letter by Bell to the State Parole Board, they credited him with taking responsibility “for your actions” and expressing “regret and remorse for your crimes,” the New York Times reports. Bell reportedly told parole board panelists during their interview of him on March 3,“There was nothing political about the act, as much as I thought at the time. It was murder and horribly wrong.”
Last year, Bell was beaten by six correctional facility guards over claims that he assaulted officers. According to Mundo Obrero Workers World, Bell never received any disciplinary violations before then. His release was granted upon his eight parole board hearing.
The Struggle is Looking Worse
According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. based think tank, “there has been no progress in how African Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration.” The Washington Post, in highlighting various points of the EPI’s report, states that 50 years after the release of the Kerner Commission Report:
- 7.5 percent of African Americans were unemployed in 2017, compared with 6.7 percent in 1968 — still roughly twice the white unemployment rate.
- The rate of homeownership, one of the most important ways for working- and middle-class families to build wealth, has remained virtually unchanged for African Americans in the past 50 years. Black homeownership remains just over 40 percent, trailing 30 points behind the rate for whites, who have seen modest gains during that time.
- The share of incarcerated African Americans has nearly tripled between 1968 and 2016 — one of the largest and most depressing developments in the past 50 years, especially for black men, researchers said. African Americans are 6.4 times as likely than whites to be jailed or imprisoned, compared with 5.4 times as likely in 1968.