On the evening of Dec. 26, 2010, Officer John Maguire was faithfully serving the community just as he had done for more than three decades. Anyone who has turned on the news or read a newspaper knows what happened next.
In a cowardly act of rage and desperation, habitual offender and parolee Dominic Cinelli took Officer Maguire’s life in a hail of bullets that left Cinelli dead as well. It was a fitting end to the life of Cinelli, an unrepentant criminal who vowed — in the argot of the underworld — that he would hold court in the streets rather than come back to prison.
For Officer Maguire, who vowed with equal conviction to protect and serve, only one word will suffice — tragedy. Even that word falls short. But there is another tragedy that took place outside of Kohl’s that evening.
With one fell swoop, Cinelli painted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of genuinely reformed, remorseful and rehabilitated prisoners and ex-prisoners with the same brush. Despite the fact that many of us have spent decades struggling to prove that we are the antithesis of Cinelli, we are not only lumped in with him, but are virtually indistinguishable from him in the eyes of the public. The wrath and outrage rightfully due Cinelli and his ilk is now being poured out upon the undeserving men and women who have disavowed their former lives and are truly deserving of a second chance.
The proposed legislative changes, political scrutiny and public outrage will only serve to decrease the too few rehabilitative opportunities in prison and deprive the reformed and rehabilitated of an opportunity to contribute to their families and communities, a tragedy whose effects will be felt for decades to come.
In the end, it will leave prisoners — the vast majority of who will be released regardless of the public outcry and pending legislation — more bitter, more resentful, angrier and less equipped to return to society as productive and pro-social citizens. This misguided response is not without precedent.
For more than two decades, in response to the Willie Horton scandal, Massachusetts has been systematically eliminating rehabilitation and re-entry from its prisons and making parole decisions based on politics rather than merit — the result is Cinelli, Ed “Butchie” Corliss and Gerald Hill, paroled lifers with 30-plus years in the system who returned to the streets ill-equipped, ill-prepared and with less than honorable intentions. The consequences speak for themselves.
Famed German writer and scientist Johann van Goethe said, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
The success of our “correctional” system will be determined by how we treat prisoners while they are in prison and whether we acknowledge their humanity by allowing them to show that they are deserving of a second chance, and then giving them that second chance accordingly. Until legislators and the public come to this understanding, and as long as our system continues to punish indiscriminately, our prisons will continue to churn out men and women like Cinelli. Sadly, that tragedy appears to go unnoticed.
Karter Kane Reed is serving a life sentence at Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, Mass.
The shooting death of Woburn Police Officer John Maguire last month has revived a debate on whether - and by how much - to limit parole for repeat violent offenders.
Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday filed a bill designed to toughen the state's habitual offenders law. It would require that anyone convicted of a third serious felony receive the maximum sentence and begin serving it only after completing any prior sentences.
Gov. Deval Patrick says he's waiting for a report from his public safety undersecretary before passing judgment on the states decision to parole a career criminal police say shot and killed a veteran Woburn officer.
Patrick said Monday that he hadn't watched a tape of 57-year-old Dominic Cinelli's 2008 parole board hearing and warned against a rush to recriminate. He said the focus should be on Officer John Maguire's grieving family.
Moments later, House Speaker Robert DeLeo told reporters his initial reaction would be to ban parole for anyone serving multiple life sentences. More »