AGING BEHIND BARS SERIES
There is an inane debate going on in the United States about whether to allow old and dying prisoners out of jail for their final days and months. Not long ago I described the aging, sick prisoner at Angola prison who was denied his plea to be allowed to die in the “free world.” The prisoin wouldn’t release the living man, but only his dead body–which, according to his wishes, was cremated by a friend, then placed in a Viking boat he had built in the Angola hobby shop, and towed out to sea where the boat and ashes were set afire.
By way of contrast, here is the way the British handle this situation. Ronnie Biggs,79, who was convicted for the famous 1963 Great Train Robbery (and who later escaped and spent years on the lam), was freed from prison on compassionate grounds because he is unlikely to recover from pneumonia.
According to the BBC, Biggs’s son, Michael, said, “My father has served a very long time in prison…In comparison to sentences which are being handed out nowadays it’s pathetic that anyone would expect my father to serve 30 years for taking part in a train robbery…The reasons why my father didn’t get parole is, he didn’t show any repentance. My father did show remorse all through the years for having committed a crime. However, he has never regretted living the life he did, because had he done that he would never have had me as a son.”
As for the crime, here is the BBC description of what happened:
Biggs, originally from Lambeth, south London, was a member of a 15-strong gang which attacked the Glasgow to London mail train at Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, in August 1963, and made off with £2.6m in used banknotes.
The train’s driver, Jack Mills, suffered head injuries during the robbery.
Biggs was given a 30-year sentence, but after 15 months he escaped from Wandsworth prison, in south-west London, by climbing a 30ft wall and fleeing in a furniture van.
He was on the run for more than 30 years, living in Australia and Brazil, before returning to the UK voluntarily in 2001 in search of medical treatment.