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Thoughts For Thursday: Why Release John Hinckley?

December 1, 2011 · 72 comments

in Commentary, Thoughts For Thursday

It has been 30 years since John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, and I remember the moment I heard about it like it was yesterday:  I was being held after class to be yelled at by my Spanish teacher when the Social Studies teacher walked in and told us that President Reagan had been shot.  I was absolutely shocked.  I was then kicked out of the classroom and the teachers turned on the television to watch coverage of the shooting.

Fortunately, President Reagan lived, but Press Secretary James Brady’s recovery was not complete and he was never able to assume his job as press secretary again.  Of course, everyone wondered why Hinckley wanted to kill the President.  Turned out, the attempted assassination was part of a wacky plot aimed to gain the attention of actress Jodie Foster.  Who could have ever predicted that?

Hospital officials feel Hinckley could be set free one day

John Hinckley now resides in a mental hospital, and is allowed to visit his mother outside the facility for up to ten days at a time.  A hearing is currently underway to determine what the future should hold for John Hinckley.   Hospital employees say that Hinckley should be able to have longer visits with his mother and eventually, be released to live with his mom completely (assuming the longer visits go well).  Hinckley’s attorney Barry Levine claims that Hinckley has not had “a single incidence of violence in excess of two decades”. (Note that he did not say “in three decades, which is how long ago the crime occurred.)

Government lawyers paint a different picture

On the other hand, prosecuters say that Hinckley acts deceptively, and that he is still a very dangerous man.  One example of Hinckley’s deception was that instead of going to the movies as he stated he was going to do, he went to the book store across the street from the theater to read about President Reagan and attempted Presidential assassinations (other than Regan’s).  (How dumb a move is that?  He had to know he was being followed by Secret Service agents??).

Thoughts about a possible Hinckley release:

First of all, I wonder what Jodie Foster would think about Hinckley being released.  I cannot imagine it would be something she would embrace enthusiastically.  (Not to mention how any resident would feel if Hinckley moved next door to them.)

Second, imagine what will happen if Hinckley becomes unhinged again.  One of the things that makes me the angriest about our legal system is when some ‘reformed’ criminal is released from prison and then goes on to kill (or harm) someone shortly after.  I cannot say it is easy to know who is reformed or who isn’t, but I personally prefer to err on the side of caution.  Yes, I recognize that jails are crowded and such, but I can think of  few things I would rather the government spend money on than keeping our communities safe.  I am not saying every criminal is beyond redemption, but some can probably be redeemed easier than others.

Third, is lack of recent violence proof that future violence will not occur?  Hinckley was 25 years old when he shot President Reagan and four other people.  Prior to the attempted assassination, Hinckley had never been convicted of any major crimes, but he still put his own life at risk and tried to assassinate a President.

Fourth, I assume he is on psychiatric drugs while in the hospital.  Who will ensure he stays on his prescribed medication if he is released?

What do you think?  Should he be given a second chance?  Or, should the mental hospital be considered a permanent residence for Mr. Hinckley?



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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone December 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

It’s been a long time. President Reagan is dead. He’s spent a long time in the asylum. Put a GPS on him and release him. I tend to trust doctors more than lawyers.


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

MC- It has been a long time, but based on what I have read, time doesn’t necessarily mean he is ‘healed’. I prefer to err on the side of caution. I guess I figure anyone that was ‘off’ enough to try and pull off a major assassination may never be right. I have to say I wouldn’t want him living next door to me, and I don’t think his mom’s neighbors are thrilled about his visits either.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc December 1, 2011 at 11:24 am

Who knows if he is truly rehabilitated or sane enough to rejoin the general population. I don’t like the deception. Overall, I’m unsure.


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:42 am

People have also said he appears to still have some unfavorable tendencies when it comes to women.

Being well behaved in a controlled and medicated hospital is much different than living independently in the general public…


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager December 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Is there a registered assassin list somewhere, like sex offenders, but for killers (or attempted ones)?


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:44 am

I wish there were, but there isn’t that I know of.

Think about Jodie Foster when she was in Taxi Driver (that was what he was obsessed about). She certainly wasn’t very old in that movie, I would worry about his tendencies for sure upon release. I would be so nervous if he lived near me, that is for sure. On the other hand, I guess I have no idea what kind of criminals live near me now (except sex offenders).


Krantcents December 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

In most instances, convicted felons are released and wil commit crimes again. I would like for sentences to be long enough to actually keep them out of society. For example, the death penalty is not a deterrent and should be abolished, but a life sentence should replace it and it should be a true life sentence without payroll. Pedophiles should never get out! Murderers or anyone who commits murder sane or insane should not get out.


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:49 am

It is interesting because I am betting that if Reagan had been killed, Hinckley would never see the light of day again. I personally don’t think attempted murder (like in this case) should be treated any differently than murder. The intent is there, and it appeared he really wanted to kill Reagan since he fired so many shots. Just because it doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you should get the chance to do it again.


retirebyforty@retireby40.org December 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I don’t think he should be fully released. Who knows what will happen if he stops taking his medication. Maybe he can visit his mom longer, but should still be monitored by the hospital.


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:50 am

Well his mom is 85 and won’t be around forever. I assume she keeps somewhat of a close eye on him, but what happens when she is gone??


101 Centavos December 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

The trouble with releasing mentally unstable people on their own recognizance, is that they forget or decline to take their medication. Perhaps a half-way house with an ankle bracelet. I wonder what the Brady family’s thoughts are on his release.


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:52 am

I am sure Brady and Jodie Foster will not be embracing his release, not neighbors or really, anyone else. (I am assuming.) Can you imagine him buying the house next door to you? Even if he was a model neighbor, there would be so much controversy about it.


Kaycee December 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Of course the death penalty isn’t a deterent. How many death row inmates are EVER put to death?? If they started killing these people, the death penalty would be a deternet. @@


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:54 am

That is an interesting thought. I don’t know what can deter people that kill others because killing is such a ridiculous concept to me. If you are in that kind of place where you are willing to kill, you might not even care what the punishment was.

When I think of the death penalty, I think of it more as a penalty than anything else I suppose.


Barb Friedberg December 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I think he should stay incarcerated for the duration! Like you said, who would ensure he takes his meds?


Kris December 2, 2011 at 8:55 am

I also wouldn’t want to be the person that signs the paperwork for his release. That is an awful lot of responsibility. Look how many people go right out there and repeat crimes. Take the meds out of the picture and who knows what will happen. His mom is 85 so she won’t be able to ensure he takes his meds forever.


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