News Releases

Sara Jane Olson Brought Back into CDCR Custody

Returned to the California Institution for Women after Sentence Recalculation

SACRAMENTO – Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced today that Sara Jane Olson, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army also known as Kathleen Soliah, has been returned to custody at the California Institution for Women. Olson was released to parole on March 17, 2008, for crimes committed in the mid-1970s. Legal questions about Olson’s sentence were raised upon notice of her parole. CDCR conducted an analysis of Olson’s case records and sentencing transcripts to ensure that all appropriate time was served for a crime she committed in Sacramento County.

“Sara Jane Olson’s case is extremely complicated, given the amount of changes to the sentencing laws that have occurred over the last 30 years,” said Scott Kernan, CDCR Chief Deputy Secretary of Adult Operations. “Upon request for review, CDCR case records staff immediately reevaluated this sentence calculation, and in coordination with our legal affairs unit and the Board of Parole Hearings has revised the sentence accordingly to ensure that all appropriate time is served.”

“After careful review, we have determined that questions raised about Olson’s release date have merit,” said Alberto Roldan, CDCR Chief Deputy General Counsel. “Upon review Olson is required to serve two additional years on a consecutive sentence for the Sacramento conviction.”

“We understand how sensitive the impact of such an error has on all involved in this case and sincerely regret the mistake,” said Kernan. “To ensure we do everything possible to prevent this from occurring in the future, we have launched a full investigation into this matter.”


Olson, a member of the infamous Symbionese Liberation Army associated with the kidnap of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in the 1970s, was paroled Monday, March 17, 2008 from the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. Olson was sentenced to prison after being returned to California following 20 plus years of living in Minnesota under an assumed name.

Olson was convicted of two crimes. Her first was for a 1975 terrorist act of planting pipe bombs under two Los Angeles Police Department cars. Those pipe bombs were discovered before they detonated. It was presumed that the bombs were intended as revenge for SLA members who died in a fiery shootout with the LAPD months before.

Her subsequent conviction was for second degree murder in Sacramento County in 1975, for the death of a bank customer, Myrna Ophsal. Ophsal was shot to death as the SLA attempted to rob the bank.

Because she was convicted subsequent to 1977, when California’s indeterminate sentencing structure was transformed, the Board of Prison Terms (now known as the Board of Parole Hearings) conducted a Serious Offender Hearing to establish a determinate sentence for her crimes. This hearing was similar to hearings conducted for most California inmates prior to the transformation of its sentencing structure.

The Board set her total term at 13 years including a one year enhancement. In October 2007, the one year enhancement was dismissed by the Court. She was paroled after serving six years, after receiving credit for good behavior and her work assignments while in prison.

Olson was initially paroled to the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County, her last legal residence in California. Late Friday night, Olson was prevented from traveling to Minnesota, where she had requested to be transferred, in order to investigate her sentence release date. Olson’s approval to travel out of state was revoked.

On Saturday, Olson was taken into custody and returned to the California Institution for Women in Corona after a determination that she was due to serve an additional two years. This sentence could be reduced to one full year if she receives all of the good-time credits for which she may be eligible.