Notorious CRIPS founding member speaks out
August 14, 2003 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Can the man who started the CRIPS really be reformed? A great article from the NY Times. Stanley "Tookie" Williams, one of the two founders of the LA gang, the Crips, has written numerous books and now does "public" speaking to young men to warn them away from the gang life. Is he serious? Is he reformed? Or is he just trying to make himself look good to get off death row? Does this "Scared Straight" stuff really work?
posted by aacheson (4 comments total)
I can't really answer the above questions. Who am I to judge whether or not he's reformed? The Times article certainly makes it sound like he is, but there's some bias there.

I don't think he should be executed, but I'm also against the death penalty. And the possibility that Stan Williams is reformed, serious, and eager to combat the wickedness he introduced into the world is a big reason why.
posted by rocketman at 11:53 AM on August 14, 2003

Wasn't there a recent South Park episode on this, featuring Timmy and Jimmy?

I like documentaries ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2003

Given the "overdetermined" motivation for punishment, no easy answer is possible. While this example satisfies the rehabilitation motive, it really seems contrary to the retribution motive; i.e., William's fame/glory is a slap in the face to the families of his victims.

My personal view is that reform should be the primary motive. If we don't aim to "correct" behavior, then we might as well just use exile or the death penalty immediately upon conviction. But our society as a whole obviously doesn't support the reform motive, as made quite evident by the rampant scarlet-lettering we seem to enjoy.

And as far as whether "scared straight" programs work, I think not. First, people seem to be able to quite easily engage in the kind of magical thinking that makes likely consequences seem impossible. Second, the kinds of prisoners that are sociable enough to participate in these programs aren't the really scary ones anyway. Finally, there's enough hypocrisy in our war on certain drugs and social value structures that the kinds of kids who are aware of that hypocrisy will tend to view all civic instruction as bullshit.
posted by yesster at 12:15 PM on August 14, 2003

I read this article Sunday, and may I just say that it's excellently written? The way Kimberly Sevcik frames the story, in terms of this almost parental distress, the kids fretting about him not calling, is brilliant. Especially because it brings the whole moment into relief when the child asks how he wants to die.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:45 PM on August 14, 2003

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