I am responsible for a terrible and misguided act. I carry my responsibility as a heavy rock. In prison, I have tried to live day by day in a way that could express the real value of human life. I know I can't restore what I helped to damage and destroy. Over the last two decades, I have tried to give life.
Kathy Boudin might be called an enigma. She was raised in a well-to-do family, the daughter of a prominent civil-rights attorney. She grew up in Manhattan and went on to graduate Magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College. Then as many a youth did in the sixties, she became a revolutionary. After certain activities caused Boudin to go "underground", she surfaced one afternoon in October of 1981, by becoming involved in the robbery of a Brinks truck in which two policemen and one security guard were killed. She was quickly apprehended and shortly thereafter was sentenced to 20-years-to-life. Ms. Boudin was granted parole last week after serving twenty-two years in prison.
Boudin was born on May 19, 1943 and grew up in Greenwich Village in New York City. Athletic at an early age, her goal was to become a bat girl in the major leagues. Her mother was a poet and her father was an attorney who founded his own law firm in 1947. The family has been described as "classically ambitious, talented, and liberal New York Jewish." Boudin attended the Little Red School House (really) and Elisabeth Irwin High School. Intending to take pre-med, Boudin was an "energetic, disciplined, and self doubting" student at Bryn Mawr. She spent her summers doing volunteer work at everything from a summer camp for handicapped children, to helping at a blood bank. But in 1964, her direction began to change.
Disenchanted with her medical studies and seeking a "new sense of purpose," Boudin decided to get active in first-hand charity work. She volunteered with ERAP (Economic Research and Action Project), and joined them in Cleveland, where she acted as a community organizer in a extremely poor section of town.
I felt like I was learning about the realities of class, of poverty. It was the discovery that there was a whole other world that I was living next to, part of, and didn't really know about.
Boudin continued to work there until the project ended in 1968. Itching for more involvement, Boudin headed for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It was there she was recruited by members of S.D.S.(Students for a Democratic Society) to help in demonstrations that were classified as "secret." From here, Boudin was off and running. Joining the Weathermen, Boudin's first act was planning and participating in the "Days of Rage" demonstrations. Invading high schools, lecturing on sexism, racism and imperialism, Boudin was finally arrested in Lincoln Park while carrying a vietcong flag.
In 1970, the Weathermen stepped up their actions with a turn more violent. In a Manhattan town-house, Boudin and others were, in essence, building bombs. Unfortunately, disaster struck early. A bomb being prepared for detonation at a nearby Army base, prematurely exploded, sending its contents of roofing nails and dynamite into three members of the weathermen, killing them instantly and sending Boudin and another young woman, Cathy Wilkerson, into hiding. Now becoming part of the Weather Underground, Boudin wouldn't be heard from again for twelve years.
Partly underground, partly above, Boudin traveled from Mexico to Massachusetts, working as a migrant picking grapes in California and drawing blood at a hospital in the northeast. During this time, the Weathermen were involved in two dozen bombings and although Boudin claims no involvement in any, she was considered as being supportive of such activities and was indicted with twelve others in 1970. The charges would later be dropped due to the manner in which they were obtained. But new and bigger charges were about to affect Boudin, charges that would alter her world forever.
I developed a politics: the way for me to enact this issue of empowerment was to put myself at the service of a Third World group...The less I would know, the more I would give up total self, the better, the more committed...I became.
Strangely enough, just as Boudin was making efforts to re-establish a normal life, she decided to aid the group known as the Black Liberation Army. A violent group engaged in "liberating African-American communities", the BLA recruited Boudin to help in a 1981 Brinks robbery, the motives of which were unclear. Boudin's role was simply to act as a decoy, so that when the final phase of the getaway was underway, suspicion of a white couple in the front seat of a truck would be dismissed and those hiding in the rear would elude capture. But plans went haywire, so to speak, and Boudin's decoy role would turn into one involving murder.
On October 20, 1981, Boudin and an accomplice waited in a U-Haul truck several miles from the Nanuet Mall near Nyack, New York. It was here that the actual armored-car heist was taking place, which resulted in a shoot-out and the death of a Brinks security guard. From here, the perpetrators fled in a stolen car and rendezvoused with the U-Haul. The
armed and fleeing group of all black men, now in the back of the U-Haul truck being driven by all white folks, were soon stopped at a roadblock. Stories vary, but long story short, when the rear door of the U-Haul was opened by police, a shoot-out incurred, leaving two more police officers dead. Boudin was in no way involved in the shoot-out, having surrendered before the shooting began, but was still charged with felony murder, since she was held responsible for any deaths that occurred during the course of the robbery. And three deaths did occur; that of police officer Edward O'Grady and Waverly Brown, and Brinks guard Peter Paige.
Kathy Boudin received what the Honorable Judge David S. Ritter considered to be lenient; twenty years to life. That was twenty-two years ago. Kathy Boudin has been incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York, since then and with the exception of one short medical trip, hasn't been outside those walls in all that time; until last week, when she was paroled. Many feel that Boudin's parole was justified, many don't. Her life in prison was one of model behavior, which included her work for and advocacy of adult education and help and care for prisoners with AIDS. She helped institute a program on parenting behind bars, sought to help inmates whose children were in foster care and earned a master's degree in education. However, family and friends of the slain policemen believe, with rare exception, that Boudin should never walk out of Bedford Hills. Those who lost so dearly, twenty years ago, feel for sure they have lost again.
Kathy Boudin finally walked out of prison on Sept. 17, 2003, at 8:45 A.M..She has accepted a job with St. Luke's H.I.V./ AIDS Center. Ms. Boudin, 60, will be on parole for the rest of her life.
All participants in the Brinks robbery were eventually brought to justice
The New York Times; Thursday, August 21, 2003.