Chesa Boudin: Son of Kathy Boudin

The comments to our post on the granting of parole to former member of the Weather Underground Kathy Boudin show strong feelings. We wish some of those objecting to her parole would think more about what it is like to spend 25 years in prison for a crime, and remember that she also was deprived of raising her son, Chesa, now a Rhodes scholar:

Chesa Boudin. When he was 14 months old, his mother and father were sent to a maximum-security prison in New York State and, 21 years later, they remain there. He was born with epilepsy and dyslexia. He was unable to read until the third grade, and was marked as a "problem child" from an early age because of frequent temper tantrums. He has the sort of unenviable personal history out of which bad guys and life’s losers are made.

So where is Mr. Boudin today? Last month, he joined 31 other Americans to accept a Rhodes Scholarship, the country’s most prestigious academic honor, and will be heading to Oxford University to deepen his study of international development—an interest he developed as a Phi Beta Kappa at Yale. As The New York Times reported, his parents are barred from receiving phone calls or e-mail in prison, and so would only learn of their son’s accomplishment in the newspapers.

Mr. Boudin’s parents are Katherine Boudin and David Gilbert, who became infamous in the 1970’s as members of the radical group the Weathermen. In 1981, they were convicted for taking part in the Brink’s robbery, during which two police officers and a guard were killed. Chesa was raised by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Weathermen colleagues of his parents, in Chicago. But his family connection remains strong: Mr. Boudin’s parents write to him almost every day and, since they’re permitted to make collect calls from prison, Mr. Boudin reprogrammed his Yale dormitory phone to override a campus-wide block on receiving collect calls, according to The Times.

Close to 1,000 students are nominated for the Rhodes each year. In his application, Mr. Boudin wrote of his parents’ situation and what he’s taken from it: "As a child, I relished my personal freedom and tried to compensate for my parents’ imprisonment. Now, I see prisons around the world: urban misery in Bolivia, homelessness in Santiago and illiteracy in Guatemala."

Shortly before winning the Rhodes, Mr. Boudin was informed that he’d also won a Marshall scholarship, which also sends students to England. Since he can’t accept both, he’s decided to take the Rhodes.

Chesa has written several op-ed pieces asking for his mother's parole, many are no longer available free online. We're glad he got his wish. Nothing will bring back the slain. Let's get over an eye for eye--as Ghandi said, it only leaves the whole world blind. Kathy Boudin has done her time.

Update: 8/22: The Parole Board stands by its decision and refuses to reconsider it.

Update: 8/24: Here is a moving article written by Chesa Boudin published in Salon a while back on what it was like to visit his parents in jail for 17 years He is a remarkable young man.

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