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Celebrating the Parole of OJ Simpson

I celebrate OJ's parole because I believe in redemption and that we are all more than our worst moments.  I'm hopeful that OJ's release will spur us to re-think the continued incarceration of reformed convicts across our country.  
Tonight, I celebrate the parole of OJ Simpson. The Nevada Parole Board voted to release OJ from prison after serving 9 years of a 33 year prison sentence for kidnapping and robbery convictions from 2008.  

In October of this year, OJ will walk out of prison and deservedly so.  OJ had no prior criminal history before 2008 (news report indicate no priors although I'm aware of his prior domestic violence allegations and a possible conviction).  No matter what we all think about OJ's role in the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, a jury acquitted him after a fair, thorough trial according to the rules (and remember, being found not guilty doesn't equal innocence; it just means he wasn't proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt).  With the Nevada convictions the only blemishes on his record and an otherwise law abiding, productive life, OJ warranted not having his existence defined by his idiotic, dangerous conduct at a Las Vegas hotel in 2007 that resulted in his incarceration.

By all accounts, OJ has been a model inmate, leading a remarkably discipline-free existence in prison.  He took classes, coached a prison softball team, positively influenced other inmates and stayed out of trouble.  OJ wasn't handed his release; he earned it.     

OJ is now 70 years old. He has family support and a re-entry plan.  At his age, he poses a low risk to re-offend and likely has “aged out” from criminality.  Beyond a desire for retribution and a thirst for OJ's flesh and soul, there is simply no merit in keeping him caged in prison.  

I celebrate OJ's parole because I believe in redemption and that we are all more than our worst moments.  I'm hopeful that OJ's release will spur us to re-think the continued incarceration of reformed convicts across our country.  Countless others remain confined in prison that have minimal criminal histories and lead law abiding prison lives who deserve an opportunity for redemption and a second shot at normalcy.  Let's rediscover our communal sense of compassion, scale back our mass incarceration monster and meaningfully institute policies to release these rehabilitated souls.  

More specifically, I celebrate OJ's release because we don't need to incarcerate the elderly anymore. Thousands of men in their latter years languish in prisons on life sentences, often for crimes they committed as children and young adults. These men often no longer pose a risk to public safety and shine as rehabilitated, wise and fit for the real world. In fact, our society stands to benefit from the experiences, the insight and skills of many of these imprisoned men. Absent immediate reform in policy and a shift away from our mass incarceration psyches, these men will die forgotten behind penitentiary walls. I celebrate today because I hope OJ's release will ignite a movement to permit our fellow human beings, regardless of their past crimes, dignity to end their lives.

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