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Unusual, if not cruel

March 24, 2008 - Kevin Sweeney
I was not one of those forgiving and forgetting types when it came to Sara Jane Olson, the former Symbionese Liberation Army activist who was picked up in St. Paul a few years ago after years of hiding out as a soccer mom and community theater actress.

Olson, known then as Kathleen Soliah, participated in a bank robbery that resulted in an innocent woman bystander being killed, and plotted to make pipe bombs to plant in police cars in an attempt to kill some cops. So, even if she spent the next 38 years on the lam and turned into a model citizen, she should still face the consequences for her earlier actions, I thought. Olson pled guilty to charges after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, figuring people accused of terrorist activities weren't going to get much sympathy.

However, I had to feel sorry for Olson this weekend. On March 17 she was released from the California women's prison where she has spent the past six years and was told she could serve her parole back home in Minnesota. She was all set to board a plane for Minneapolis when the state of California on Friday said, "Oops, our bad, you have to serve another year." She was picked up again and returned to prison by Sunday.

Seems there was an administrative error back in 2004 when the two terms she was serving consecutively were tacked together. After police and family of the slain woman protested her early release, the state of California took a closer look and found its error.

Olson's lawyers are protesting and will sue for her release, claiming she was released on parole, and she did not violate the terms of her parole. I figure she should serve the time she was supposed to serve. After all, if a guard accidentally left the prison door open and she walked out, she would be recaptured. It's the same difference here.

But it is unusual, and even a little cruel for Olson, or any prisoner, to be given freedom one day then yanked back into the slammer the next. She deserves some consideration for that.


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