Fight Toxic Prisons celebrates Herman Bell’s Release yesterday from the New York state prison system after 45 years, and hopes that we may be able to welcome him out in person at our annual Convergence coming up in June.
Herman’s ability to connect the struggles between rural land defense and urban food justice through his co-founding of the Victory Gardens project was a major inspiration for the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons to organize at the intersection of prison and ecology.
We welcome him back to life outside the American gulags, and continue to find inspiration from his commitment and determination to continue a life of struggle and constant involvement in the social movements of this country over the past four and a half decades. Herman’s words
about the Victory Gardens project:
In my outreach beyond prison walls in 1995, I met Carol and Michael (two marvelous environmental activist farmers from the state of Maine); together, we created the Victory Gardens Project. The VGP brought together people from diverse lifestyles and remote locations (we called it the urban-rural connection) to plant, grow, tend, harvest, and then distribute the food free to our communities. This life-giving project enjoyed eight successful seasons distributing food in Maine, Boston, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx.
In the last several weeks of uncertainty about his release, some very important articles exposed the police union’s lies and misrepresentation of the amount of public support they have in opposing parole decisions favoring the release of political prisoners. As Natasha Lennard
of the Intercept
put it, “The myth that the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has the public on its side must not be allowed to pass as fact. ”
The following is a message from longtime friends and supporters of Herman:
On Friday, April 27, Herman Bell, a 70-year-old respected elder, was released after serving nearly 45 years in prison. Herman was one of thousands of incarcerated older people who was repeatedly denied parole for over a decade after completing his minimum sentence. His release is a result of important and urgent changes in the criminal legal system and parole regulations that are part of nationwide efforts to end mass incarceration.
Let us hope that Herman’s release brings inspiration for more change. Herman is deeply humbled and grateful for the broad expressions of trust and support, but out of respect for the feelings of the victims’ families, he will not be making any public statements. We welcome him home.