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Kathy Boudin, former Weather Underground radical, dies at 78

Kathy Boudin, a former Weather Underground radical who spent more than two decades in prison for her role in a fatal 1981 armored truck robbery and spent the latter part of her life helping people who had been imprisoned, has died at age 78.

Boudin, who lived in New York City, died of cancer on Sunday surrounded by family, including her life partner David Gilbert, who was released from prison last year for his own role in the infamous Brink’s armored truck robbery.

Boudin had expressed remorse for the robbery, in which a guard and two police officers were killed north of New York City. She was described as a model prisoner. She was released on parole in 2003, a move that infuriated some relatives and friends of the three men killed in the botched robbery. Boudin kept a low profile after her release and continued to work on behalf of inmates and former inmates.

Her son with Gilbert, Chesa Boudin, the district attorney of San Francisco, said his mother devoted herself to others well after her cancer diagnosis in 2015.

“She, as a mother, offered not only unconditional love and pride, but also a model of how to live redemption and own responsibility for horrific mistakes without allowing them to entirely define her life,” Chesa Boudin said.

Kathy Boudin was the daughter of the civil rights attorney Leonard Boudin and became a radical activist in the 1960s, joining the Weather Underground, the group that helped define the radical anti-Vietnam war movement with its violent protests and bombings.

Sentenced to 20 years to life, in prison she developed a program on parenting behind bars and helped write a handbook for inmates whose children are in foster care. She earned a master’s degree and worked to help inmates with Aids.

After her release, she founded a program that provides healthcare for people returning from incarceration and co-founded the Center for Justice at Columbia University, which seeks alternatives to mass incarceration. She earned a doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College and taught at the Columbia School of Social Work.

Gilbert, who did not plead guilty, was sentenced to 75 years to life. Last summer, the then New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, granted clemency to Gilbert just before resigning.

Boudin and Gilbert were married after their arrests and divorced in prison but remained close and had been spending days together since Gilbert’s release, Chesa Boudin said.

The prosecutor, who ran on a progressive platform, was 14 months old when his parents were imprisoned. He was raised by Kathy Boudin and Gilbert’s Weather Underground compatriots, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

“I have boxes and boxes of letters that she sent me from prison,” Chesa Boudin said of his mother. “We spent countless hours every month on the phone.”

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