To Chairwoman, Board of Parole, New York State, Tina M. Stanford
Grant parole to New York State prisoner Herman Bell
We are asking that Herman Bell be granted release on parole at his February 2016 hearing
Herman Bell has been in state custody since 1979 and has been denied release on parole 6 times since he first became eligible in 2004.
Every time Herman has been denied, it has been for the same reason-that releasing him would undermine the law and deprecate the seriousness of the crime. Herman has taken responsibility and expressed regret for the shooting of the police officer and has served 4 decades in prison for this offense. He is by all accounts, a much different person than he was in 1971 and further incarceration serves no purpose other than vengeance. We believe Herman has done everything he can to make amends for his crime and we ask that he be granted parole at his 7th parole hearing in 2016.
While incarcerated, Herman has been a model prisoner and a positive influence on those around him. He has been a mentor and father-figure to many young men in prison, helping them take advantage of every academic and vocational program they can to prepare for release and reintegration into society. In addition to earning a dual Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and sociology, and a Masters degree in sociology, Herman has coached football and basketball in order to have a positive influence on the many young men he has met during his 4 decades in prison. With Herman’s help, the Victory Gardens project was established in 1995 with two farmers in Maine. The project brought together people from diverse lifestyles and remote locations to plant, grow, tend, harvest, and then distribute the food free to our communities. This life-giving project enjoyed eight successful seasons distributing food in Maine, Boston, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx.
Herman’s continued denials at the parole board are sadly, not a rarity but the norm. The number of incarcerated people ages 50+ in New York has increased 81% from 2000 to 2013, even as the total number of people locked up has fallen by 23% during the same period. Today, 17% of incarcerated men and 15% of incarcerated women in the New York prison system are over 50 years of age- roughly 9,000 people. Herman is 67 years old.
This is an unnecessary crisis. Many of these elders should be released. New York routinely denies parole to elders behind bars, even though they pose no risk to public safety and are fully prepared to successfully re-enter and contribute to society. The recidivism rate of people who have served long sentences for serious felonies is 1.3%—lower than any other category of those released. Many, like Herman, have records of positive achievement in prison and are praised by prison officials as peacemakers and role models. FOR MORE INFO ON THE EFFORTS ON HERMAN'S PAROLE YOU CAN GO TO WWW.FREEHERMANBELL.ORG