When Suicide Seems to be the Best Option for Dying in Prison
Date:  09-07-2016

Letters of support from prison guards, judges, and prosecutors failed to sway parole board
From the New York Times

On July 26, John MacKenzie went before the parole board at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, N.Y., and made the case, once again, for his freedom. He had been locked up since 1975 for shooting and killing a Long Island police officer, Matthew Giglio, during a bungled robbery attempt. His sentence was 25 years to life — the maximum under state law. On Aug. 2, he learned that the board had voted 2 to 1 against him. It was the 10th time in 16 years that he had been denied parole.

Later that day, he sent a handwritten letter to his daughter Denise, saying that “they’re hell bent on keeping me in prison” and “I don’t believe I’ll last much longer.”

On Aug. 4, another inmate found Mr. MacKenzie hanging by the neck from a bedsheet tied to the window bars of his cell. He was 70. John MacKenzie was no ordinary prisoner. In the more than 40 years he spent behind bars, he became one of the most respected inmates in the state’s penal system. He had a spotless disciplinary record. He took full responsibility for the murder of Mr. Giglio. He earned degrees in business and the arts. He started a program to give victims the opportunity to speak directly to inmates about the impact of their crimes. The state’s own risk-assessment program found that he posed little to no risk of re-offending. Prison guards, judges, clergy members and prosecutors wrote letters supporting him.

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