Sharon Atkins, who was convicted of the murder of seven people, in particular that of Sharon Tate whom she brutally stabbed as the woman begged for mercy for her son, has died in jail. She was the longest serving woman in a California jail - 37 years of incarceration. In 1969 when the murders were committed, I was a young, innocent 21 year old, recently married and thinking the world was the greatest place. I felt sick to my stomach (I was a nurse then) when the gruesome details of the murders were splashed over every British newspaper. It was unbelievably sickening. One just found it truly hard to believe.
Ms Atkins was denied parole for the 13th time three weeks ago and has died in prison. However, the last parole was most urgent because she had brain cancer, one of her legs had been amputated and the other was paralysed. She was not in a great state. Forty years ago I was an entirely different person - young, green impressionable and eager to please. Today I am my own woman, confident, a leader than a follower, and with my own sense of direction. I daresay Susan Atkins had made that life journey to maturity too.
Should she have been released? Think about these questions before you answer:
Is it time for the families to get out of the 60s and into present reality?
If we do not forgive at some point, don't we too get dragged along with the smelling carcass?
Note these two statements from commentators said when she was last up for parole:
1. I can't imagine what grief and anger the victims' families live with. But I worry for them: if they never forgive, the bitterness and anger will destroy them. They deserve to be free from this. Forgiveness never means letting someone get away with it. But forgiveness does allow you to let go of that burden. The victims deserve to let go. They deserve to forgive Atkins and be free.
2. "She asked me to let her baby live," Atkins told parole officials in 1993. "I told her I didn't have mercy for her." Why should people have mercy for Susan Atkins? Dont release her, keep her in prison until the day she dies, it's karma!
Which one do you agree with?
When does justice end and sheer revenge begins in a case like this?
Should the stages in people's development be acknowledged within the justice system?
Should prison be simply for sentencing or rehabilitating someone too so that we don't breed even more hardened criminals who just keep harming society?
Over to you, with the usual mature courtesies expected on my column. Thank you.