State prison officials to pay more attention to hate group links of inmates

The Associated Press/September 16, 1999
By Hal Spencer

Olympia, Wash. -- With a Washington white supremacist charged in an Aug. 10 shooting spree at a Los Angeles Jewish community center, state prison officials will pay closer attention to inmates with a history of involvement in hate groups, the state prison chief said Thursday.

The man charged in the shootings, Buford O. Furrow, had strong ties to the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, a fact that apparently got little attention from authorities who assessed Furrow's mental health after he was charged with second-degree assault last year, and who monitored his behavior following his release from jail.

"It is my belief that racism" and other forms of hate are "diseases of the heart, not of the mind," said Joe Lehman, secretary of the state Department of Corrections.

Still, Lehman said the Furrow case helped convince him that "as a matter of policy" a person's links to hate groups should be considered as among reasons for mental health treatment and for closer scrutiny upon release from prison.

He commented after a cursory legislative committee session on mental health treatment for convicted criminals.

Furrow last year had tried to check himself into a mental health facility in Kirkland but wound up pulling a knife on staff members and went to jail on a second-degree assault accusation.

He was held in the King County Jail on $50,000 bond. He pleaded guilty April 26 and sentenced to an eight-month term but released May 21 because -- with credit for 165 days served plus "good time" -- he had already served the required time.

Furrow, of Olympia, was a former Aryan Nations security guard at the group's compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho.

The Aryan Nations is the political arm of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a sect that preaches anti-Semitism and racial separation.

He is charged with fatally shooting a U.S. postal worker, who was Filipino-American, and wounding five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles.

Last month in Los Angeles, a magistrate entered an innocent plea for Furrow, 37, in the postal worker slaying after defense lawyers said they did not intend to enter a plea. Such a defense move provides time for lawyers to plot strategy.

A tentative trial date of Oct. 12 was set.

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