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Another 'Oops!' for Corrections Spokeswoman Thornton?*

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Last week, news that one branch of what remains of the Manson family tree, Susan Atkins, was seeking a compassionate release due to an undisclosed and likely terminal illness triggered waves of reaction from the public, many of whom believe convicts of Atkins' ilk should remain incarcerated for the duration of their life sentences.

In public statements made regarding Atkins' 37 years' imprisonment to date, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said that Atkins was currently the longest-serving female inmate in state history.

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In fact, this is only partially correct. On March 29, 1971, Atkins was sentenced (initially to death; the sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972) along with two other women: fellow Manson family members Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. Van Houten, however, was freed on bond during a retrial in the late 70s, whereas Krenwinkel remained incarcerated. That means that Thornton misspoke; Atkins is not in fact the longest-serving female inmate in California, but rather one of the two longest-serving women.*