by Jennifer Mancuso
I learned about the 1981 Brink’s Robbery when I was introduced to Judy Clark at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility last year. It was my first visit to a maximum security prison. It was a warm day, but I felt so cold. Driving into the steel barbed wire complex. Going through metal detectors. Loud buzzers. Corrections officers with stern demeanors. I sat shivering in the visiting area waiting for Judy to come. And so, I was surprised to see her walk down the corridor with a swing in her step, smiling brightly. I noticed how many inmates, corrections officers, and volunteers stopped to say hello and return Judy’s smile. And how warm and encouraging and present she was with each and every person she encountered. Workers came by to ask her opinion, and to tell her that they had missed her at a training session. It became clear to me that she was an essential part of the prison community. I quickly understood: Here was a woman who has lived 34 years confronting her mistakes and her remorse, understanding deeply what she’s done and how it’s affected others, and who has existed day after day in the darkness of this cold place, but who has all the while spread love and light within.
I have never met anyone who exemplified redemption like Judy. Through mentoring women who are incarcerated at Bedford she has saved countless lives from the cycle of self-destruction. The overwhelming majority of women at Bedford come from impoverished backgrounds. Many are victims of sexual violence. They have low self-worth. Judy has devoted herself to mentoring these women, helping them learn about themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and she believe that they are better than their circumstances.
Judy exudes compassion, peace, and wisdom unlike anyone else I know. I have never met anyone more reflective or more remorseful. Judy has taught me that you can apologize for your actions, but you can’t ask people to forgive. Whenever I talk to Judy about something I perceive to be unjust, she smiles, understanding, and reminds me that we’re all complicated.
After meeting Judy, I started talking to people in Nyack. I learned quickly how scarred my beloved community still is from this tragedy. Many continue to believe that Judy is un-remorseful. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the people I spoke with also didn’t know that all of the convicted shooters in the Brinks crime have been released from prison. The actual shooters served 19 years or less in prison. Judy was actually in a separate car from the shooters, but she has served 34 years and will never be eligible for parole during her lifetime.
If we were willing, as a community, to recognize that Judy Clark has atoned herself we’d be making a profound statement about the potential for change. If we recognize redemption and embrace compassion, that would be a real tribute to the lives that were lost so senselessly that day.
See also: Nyack Sketch Log: The Brink’s Robbery
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