By Roberto Capocelli
Larry White is an old man now, but still remembers his time when he growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant. It was back before Bed-Stuy Do or Die was known as the hot gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. As a kid, while other children were playing basketball he used to stick-up the A&P supermarkets in his area.
“I didn’t have any plans other than you make money and you hustle,” he said.
He spent most of his childhood and young adult life just like that, hustling. Then, one day back in 1976, on Monday April 12, White and a group of acquaintances raided the New Amsterdam cinema on 42nd, just off Times Square. It should have been an easy $80,000 job — that’s $340,000 in today’s dollars — but everything could go wrong did.
During the botched robbery two security guards were killed by White’s accomplice. The day of the heist the cinema was featuring the film “The Getaway,” in which Steve McQueen plays the role of a prisoner who, despite being refused parole, manages to regain his freedom thanks to the help of a partner. In return for his help the partner wants support for one last bank heist.
He did not know it that day while the heist turned into a double murder, but the movie on the marquee would presage White’s life.
White was arrested for his role in the killings, tried, and sentenced to 25 years to life. While still at Rikers Island, he tried to escape cutting the bars of his cell but the attempt failed and he went back to prison. He became a model prisoner, working as an editor at the prison newspaper and attending the rehabilitation programs
But it was not enough for three parole boards.
Despite his excellent record as an inmate White was denied parole for three times and spent additional seven years in prison.
In 2007, White regained his freedom after finally getting approved for parole. Now, instead of just looking back on his life he tries to use it’s hard lessons to help other people looking to turn their lives around. Today he is a consultant for the American Friends Service Committee and runs the program Hope Lives for Lifers to help inmates to cope within the prison system and to prepare them for the parole board hearings.