Manson Family Killer One Step Closer to Freedom

9/6/2017 3:45 PM PDT

Manson Family Killer Leslie Van Houten Granted Parole Suitability

The youngest member of Charles Manson's murderous family went before a parole panel for the 21st time ... and took a big step toward being released.

Leslie Van Houten -- now 68 years old -- was granted parole suitability at a hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, CA Wednesday. That doesn't mean she's out, but it's a big step toward that.

There's a 5-month process in which all of her records will be reviewed and the file will then go to Governor Jerry Brown, who can either uphold the parole recommendation, reverse it or modify it.

She shouldn't get her hopes up ... last year the Board made the same recommendation and Brown nixed it.

As we reported ... Van Houten was equipped with a 13-page report saying she was immature and brainwashed by Manson as a 19-year-old when she stabbed and murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Fellow Manson family killer, Patricia Krenwinkel, was denied parole in June.