Former Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten granted release on parole

Leslie Van Houten
Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten confers with her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, not shown, during a break from her hearing before the California Board of Parole Hearings in April in Chino, Calif.

Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of Charles Manson, was released from prison on Tuesday after serving more than 50 years for her role in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

In a significant development, Leslie Van Houten, a former member of the infamous Manson Family cult, has been granted parole after spending decades behind bars. The decision has ignited a wave of controversy and debate, raising questions about justice, rehabilitation, and the nature of forgiveness.

Van Houten was involved in the notorious Manson Family murders that shocked the nation in the late 1960s. At just 19 years old, she played a role in the brutal killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, wealthy Los Angeles residents, in 1969. These murders were part of Charles Manson’s deranged plan to incite a race war, known as “Helter Skelter.” Van Houten was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Over the years, Van Houten has undergone a remarkable transformation. She has expressed remorse for her actions, undergone extensive counseling, and actively participated in rehabilitative programs during her incarceration. Supporters argue that her behavior in prison demonstrates her ability to reform and reintegrate into society as a law-abiding citizen.

The parole decision comes after Van Houten’s previous parole grants were reversed by former California Governor Jerry Brown in 2017 and 2019. However, the current governor, Gavin Newsom, has taken a different stance on her case. The California Board of Parole Hearings had recommended her release on two previous occasions, citing her good conduct and commitment to personal growth.

Despite the positive recommendations, the decision to release Van Houten has drawn sharp criticism from the families of the victims and advocates for crime victims’ rights. They argue that the gravity of her crimes should prevent her from ever being granted parole. Many believe that her release could undermine the principles of justice and set a dangerous precedent.

The parole board’s decision, though controversial, aligns with the evolving perspective on criminal justice and the emphasis on rehabilitation and second chances. Proponents argue that prolonged incarceration does not necessarily serve justice or contribute to the overall safety of society. They believe that Van Houten’s demonstrated efforts at redemption should be taken into account, allowing her a chance to live a meaningful life outside of prison.

However, the case continues to provoke strong emotions and debate among the public. Some fear that releasing Van Houten might glorify her association with the Manson Family and the heinous acts committed under their influence. Others argue that denying her parole, despite her positive transformation, denies the very possibility of redemption and personal growth.

While Van Houten’s release on parole marks a significant turning point in her life, it also raises profound questions about the limits of punishment and the potential for rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. As society grapples with these complex issues, the legacy of the Manson Family and the notorious crimes they committed will undoubtedly continue to captivate and disturb the collective consciousness for years to come.