Back in 1998, a Gloucester, Massachusetts woman (and known drug addict) named Barbara Goucher approached Florence “Bunny” Munroe and demanded money. Munroe had attempted to help Goucher straighten out her life in the past, but not this time. Apparently not willing to support Goucher’s addiction, Munroe demurred. As a reward for her decision, Goucher stabbed her with a knife 108 times and finished off the job by suffocating her. She was found guilty and sent to prison.
That brings us to the current day. Goucher was still a year away from her scheduled date to be moved from that prison to a lower security jail, transitioning to supervised release after that. But yesterday she hit the bricks, thanks to the state deciding that the coronavirus made confinement too dangerous. Goucher’s victim’s daughter was less than impressed with the decision. (CBS Boston)
A convicted murderer will be released one year earlier than expected due to concerns over the coronavirus. Barbara Goucher, 54, will be released by the Massachusetts Parole Board on Tuesday, April 28.
Goucher pleaded guilty to second degree murder in 1999 after stabbing Gloucester resident, Florence “Bunny” Munroe to death.
“My mother’s dying words were, you’re going to jail for this,” Munroe’s daughter, Tammy O’Donnell told WBZ. “To sit here today and know that she’s getting out, that, you know, I can’t honor her last wish.”
O’Donnell said she was informed of Goucher’s release last Thursday.
So the prevailing wisdom at this point is that it’s dangerous to be in a Massachusetts prison while the virus is spreading around. Fair enough. Hard to argue with that. But you know what else is dangerous? Not giving Barbara Goucher all of your money when she’s jonesing for a fix. That has proven to be able to kill you one hell of a lot faster than the novel coronavirus.
At least in New York City, the majority (but not all) of the prisoners being released in their “empty the jails” initiative have been more of the nonviolent variety. Far too many of them immediately turned around and committed new crimes within a week and wound up back behind bars. But as I suggested, there were exceptions. We recently discussed a convicted rapist who was dumped back out on the streets early and didn’t last ten days before he attempted to rape another woman. Another prisoner was cut loose and only managed one day on the streets before he was arrested for murder. All of this seems to have come as a shocking surprise to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
We don’t know what Barbara Goucher’s prospects are in terms of potential recidivism versus walking the straight and narrow. The linked article mentions that “health concerns” were one factor that was considered when deciding to cut her loose. Perhaps she’s not well enough to go out and kill anyone else at this point. But that’s one heck of a roll of the dice when you consider the possible consequences.
But is that really the point? She was convicted of a horrible crime by a jury of her peers and given an appropriate sentence. The victim’s family clearly wants to see her serve her full term. The real question is why Massachusetts isn’t following the example of other states and at least restricting the early releases to nonviolent offenders. If you get rid of all of them, the jails will be far more empty so it should be easier to keep the violent offenders separated, reducing the risk of further contagion.
This all seems to fly in the face of common sense while being unfair to the family of Bunny Munroe. And just as with the cases in New York, if Goucher goes on to commit another crime and/or (God forbid) kill someone else, it will be the elected officials of Massachusetts who will have blood on their hands.