Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack Abbott: From the Belly of the Beast

"I Would Just Like An Apology!"

Abbott applied for early release at his first opportunity. In June 2001, he appeared before the parole board in Wende Correctional Facility. During an interview, in which Abbott told the parole commissioner that he was talking to him "in an angry voice like I have done something to offend you," he displayed no remorse for his crimes. His request for parole was subsequently denied. In its decision, the board pointed to Abbott's dismal criminal history:

"Your record of antisocial behaviors and criminality all escalating to extreme violence dates to the 1950s. By your own report, your history includes bank robbery, escape from prison, assault on another inmate who later died and other crimes supported by the record... Further we were struck by the absolute lack of any sign of remorse for your fatal actions and no mention of the pain and suffering your extremely violent actions have caused the family of the victim... Overall we find you remain a dangerous, persistently violent individual whose release would pose an innate danger to the community."

Abbott was returned to the prison life he despised so completely. On the morning of February 10, 2002, a guard went to check on Abbott when he failed to exit his cell. Jack Abbott was found hanging from the ceiling with a bed sheet and shoelaces wrapped around his neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene and the cause of death was listed as suicide. Although Abbott allegedly left a note, the contents of that letter have never been revealed. An autopsy, performed by the renowned Dr. Cyril Wecht at the request of the Abbott family, later confirmed that the death was indeed a suicide. "At this time, I have no reason to doubt that this was a suicidal hanging," he told the press.

"His life was tragic from beginning to end," Mailer said to reporters shortly after Abbott's death, "What made it doubly awful is that he brought a deadly tragedy down on one young man full of promise and left a bomb crater of lost possibilities for many, including especially himself." Not everyone was as sympathetic. Richard Adan's father-in-law, Henry Howard, told the New York Daily News, "He got it right this time. That's the third person he murdered and he got the right one."

But Jack Abbott didn't see it that way. In his view, he was not to blame for the person he was. For that, he blamed the courts, the police, prison guards and the entire criminal justice system. "I am not responsible for what the government, its system of justice, its prison, has done to me. I did not do this to myself I don't want revenge," he wrote in his book, "I would just like an apology of some sort. A little consideration. Just a small recognition by society of the injustice that has been done to me."