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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reader poll: Should Stephen Kessler be paroled?

It's hard to believe, but Stephen Kessler, the bad, bad dude who shot a Rocky Butte jail guard in the head as part of an escape and wild crime spree 30 years ago, is actually coming up for parole. Of course, he's an altar boy now, a completely changed man, a philosopher, a credit to society, yada yada yada, but he was convicted of bank robbery, attempted murder, and kidnapping. He destroyed a jail guard's life. Supposedly his sentences were going to run 145 years, but of course, in America's absurd criminal justice system, those are meaningless numbers.

If you were on the parole board, how would you vote?

Should Stephen Kessler be paroled?
pollcode.com free polls 

UPDATE. 5:10 p.m.: The parole board has unanimously agreed.

Comments (22)

"Supposedly his sentences were going to run 145 years, but of course, in America's absurd criminal justice system, those are meaningless numbers."

Yes, back then judges had more "discretion" to decide yada yada yada.

But I wonder if these M11 crimes were committed today he would not be getting out early, no? I am in favor of the stricter sentencing in place now, even if it means more money spent on jails at the expense of other things taxpayers get taken for.

The idea that prison is rehabilitative is no longer accepted by many people. That leaves retribution, restraint, and deterrence as rationales for punishment. Kessler may no longer need restraint, although who knows whether that story's true? On the retribution and deterrence fronts, parole for him would be counter-productive.

By and large I think we have too many people in prison for too long a time. The revenge we take costs us more than them at some point.

Specifically in this case, I am much less impressed with Kessler's reading of German philosophers than with the fact that he has never apologized, to his victims, their families, or even in his letter to the parole board. His use of intellectual rationalization devoid of any human reaction or remorse strikes me as thoroughly sociopathic. He has spent almost his entire life in prison, before and after this crime. I think the judge as well as the medical school dean emeritus who conducted the psychiatric interview might not be looking at this deeply enough.

My vote would be no.

So...if he does get out on parole, he'll have to do something to earn an income to support himself.

Just who would be so benevolent?

Do the folks that advocate rehabilitation for criminals who committed capital crimes also offer a job placement service?

How much does it cost to keep someone locked up in Oregon's prison system?

In this case, it's worth every penny.

Having been one of he federal prosecutors on he Kessler drug cases, I may be a bit prejudiced.

However, Kessler was a consumate con back in he eighties and sill is now. Nohing abou him has changed, including his psuedo intellecual cany. Steve was a "revolutionary" in the 80's quoting Marcuse and Marx as justification for his heroin dealings, with heroin and bank robbery being his "tools" to "strike at capitalist oppression".

Still gaming the system.

I can't vote on your poll unless I know whether he is physically incapacitated or not.

Studies have shown that the most effective tool to stop released prisoners from committing new crimes is....

Plastic Surgery!

Not making that up.

IMHO shooting an LEO should mean life behind bars, unless there are some pretty unusual circumstances surrounding the event. Leave him right where he is....

Yeah...Too bad that doesn't apply to any LEO spending ANY time behind bars, no matter how egregiously they violate the laws, their 'principles', and the rights and persons they are supposedly 'protecting'.

Yeah, I'm really curious why the life of a LEO is more important? valuable? or whatever to warrant harsher penalties than that of the average person.

Ex-bartender, it's not that the individual life of an LEO is more valuable; it's that the position is more important.

Nonny Mouse, it seems without your experience I got on your same page.

Come on -- shoot a freakin' jail guard? That's it. Life behind bars. Never, ever, ever to walk the streets again. Sorry.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think this guy should be let out. I voted "no" in the poll. I just think the life (or position... I can't tell if you were being facetious there or not, Sally) of the average person is equally as valuable as that of a LEO and warrants similar punishment.

Ex-bartender: I was not being facetious in the least when I said that the position in & of itself deserved greater protection and warranted heavier penalties. I cannot believe that every few years John Hinkley comes up for parole review. He shot (and almost killed) the POTUS.

Some positions are simply of much greater importance and so is protecting them and the people who hold them. Like the jail guard who had a gun blown off six inches from and into his head.

Word on the street in the 80's was that Kessler was more like a mafia Don for the heroin trade/robberies that were
going on. He was very powerful, connected and charismatic and lots of people were his victims, not just this prison guard during the infamous jail break. I was on one of the juries involved with it.

By an enormous order of magnitude, Kessler's "excuse" that he did not intend to shoot this gun (into prison guard Burkett) but the gun didn't have a trigger guard sounds ever so slightly like "Nutsy" Smith's excuse that he didn't know how the face of the girl he assaulted, way back when, hit his hands.

Is this what you call narcissism, in at least one case, and sociopathy -- as I would in one other?

Sally, I'd take your "the position of LEO requires greater protection" argument a lot more seriously if said positions carried an equally heavy burden of responsibility. But it's pretty obvious that, at least in Portland (and from what I've read, in many other big cities), that that is simply not the case. They can engage in egregiously bad behavior, even criminal behavior, and seldom if ever get serious punishment. So, no, I don't subscribe to your view.

So much for the egalitarian ideals on which our country was based, I guess. Long live the aristocracy and the power elite. Sorry, I don't believe that the life - or position - of say, a Thumper Humphreys merits greater protection (or greater retribution) than the lives of my kids, for instance... or anybody else for that matter. A life is a life.

It's not just "a life." It's a life on the line to protect society. Mark Jones and Ex-bartender seem to be arguing that because not all police officers live up to a high bar, none nor the institution merits any greater sanctification. Is there no utility value in a legal cordon around the front line of protection of society from criminals?

Ask a soldier or vet.

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