A parable of the absurdist bureaucratic state.
Wolves in Red Ribbons
AIDS awareness is only the secondary concern.
As one of his last acts in office, departing New York State governor Andrew Cuomo commuted the sentences of several high-profile murderers. Among this group is David Gilbert, who was sentenced to a 75 year-to-life term for his role in the infamous 1981 Brinks bank robbery in Westchester. The robbery, meant to raise funds for the radical Black Liberation Army, involved two shootouts that killed two police officers and a security guard, and wounded others. The ultimate goal of the robbery was to finance a guerilla uprising and establish a separate nation called the Republic of New Afrika.
The case is notorious because of the involvement of four white revolutionaries, including Gilbert and his wife Kathy Boudin, who are the parents of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. They, along with Judith Clark and Marilyn Buck, were members of the Weather Underground and the May 19th Communist Organization.
Cuomo commuted Judith Clark’s sentence in 2016, and she was paroled in 2019. Kathy Boudin—who cut a plea deal before going to trial—was paroled in 2003. Marilyn Buck received compassionate release in 2010, shortly before she died.
These cases—among many others—have been causes célèbres among the Left elite, which always cares for its own, even when they murder police officers. Chesa Boudin speaks self-pityingly about his parents’ crimes, implying that they and he are victims of a system that is arbitrary and capricious.
Whenever one of these imprisoned radicals comes up for parole or appeals for clemency, they inevitably present an updated CV describing how they have turned their lives around in prison. This is typical of all parole applications, of course. Long term inmates pleading redemption have to demonstrate a newfound prosocial outlook that will make them fit members of society.
In a message regarding his final commutations, Andrew Cuomo cited David Gilbert’s “significant contributions to AIDS education and prevention programs” while incarcerated. Wikipedia reports that “Gilbert in 1987 co-founded an inmate peer education program on HIV and AIDS, and a similar, more successful project in Great Meadows Prison in Comstock following his transfer to the eastern part of the state.”
Gilbert’s confederate Judith Clark did similar work while in prison. In a letter of support for her parole, published in the New York Times, state senator Brad Hoylman cited her “efforts to address the effect of the AIDS epidemic in prison, and her success helping rebuild a prison college program when public funding was eliminated.” Upon Clark’s release, the Times reported “she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, led educational programs for inmates and started programs to counsel AIDS patients and improve prenatal care in prison.”
Kathy Boudin, scion of a prominent family of learned Communists, wrote scholarly articles while in prison. In the Summer 1993 issue of the Harvard Educational Review she published “Participatory Literacy Education Behind Bars: AIDS Opens the Door,” and later edited the book, Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in a New York State Maximum-Security Prison. While in prison, she also worked on “building a community response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
Marilyn Buck initially evaded arrest for her involvement in the Brinks robbery, but was later found guilty for it, as well as for bombing the U.S. Capitol in 1983. Encomiastic websites memorialize her work “with other prisoners to support women affected by the devastation of the HIV/AIDS crisis.”
Laura Whitehorn, Buck’s associate in the Capitol bombing, served 14 years in prison. In a prison interview published in a 1998 pamphlet called “Enemies of the State,” Whitehorn cited her prison AIDS work as an essential continuation of her political activism. “Dealing with the issue of women and AIDS,” she explained, “involves fighting genocide as well as racism and sexism.”
Susan Rosenberg was part of the same circle. She received a 25-year sentence for explosives charges, which was commuted by Bill Clinton. While in prison, “as she struggled to survive, Rosenberg developed AIDS education programs for fellow prisoners and studied for a master’s degree in creative writing.”
One supposes that doing “AIDS education” in prison is probably a good thing, though it’s not clear that the challenge isn’t already met by extensive and massively funded AIDS prevention and education programs administered by the government at various levels. Almost since the discovery of the disease in the mid-eighties, efforts to destigmatize it and spread awareness about it were pursued vigorously. In 1986, the National Academy of Sciences issued a major report, Confronting AIDS, which called for a “massive media, educational and public health campaign to curb the spread of the HIV infection,” including billions of dollars in funding.
These efforts were paralleled at the state level. In 1985, for instance, New York State governor Mario Cuomo announced plans for “a major education effort by the state to inform New Yorkers about AIDS and combat possible panic from misinformation about the disease.” The new effort would be “paid for from the $13 million in state funds already allocated to AIDS-related efforts.”
David Gilbert and his gang of violent terrorists have been exploiting the AIDS issue for decades as a humanitarianistic ploy. It’s clear from the way they talk about AIDS, however, that they see disease education as a propaganda vehicle for their hard left agenda. We shouldn’t be suckered by David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. They aren’t sitting bedside, changing diapers and putting compresses on sweaty foreheads. When they talk about “AIDS education,” they are just dressing up their noxious politics of terror in white robes of caring.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.