No one would ever consider a death row inmate a role model. But, a former gang member who was convicted of murder and is now on death row has found himself in that position. He just received a Presidential Award from the Presidential Council on Service and Civic Participation given to those extolling “the outstanding character of America”.
Stanley “Tookie” Williams is the former founder of the gang the Crips. In 1981, he was convicted of murdering four people. He is imprisoned at San Quentin Prison and is waiting for the Supreme Court to review his request for clemency.
While waiting, Williams took a hard look at his life. He has become an anti-gang activist. His efforts have been channeled into books–he’s written 10 of them. Most of his books are written for children and center around keeping kids out of gangs. In 1998, he wrote the book “Life in Prison” which is used in after-school violence prevention programs throughout the country. Proceeds from the sales of these books go to programs to help children at risk. He receives thousands of letters from former gang members who point to his writings as the reason they left gang life behind.
William A. Harrison of Old Catholic Orthodox Church in Louisiana nominated Williams for the honor. He believes the convicted murdered has been redeemed. Others are not convinced that a convicted murderer deserves such an honor.
This is not the first time Williams work has been recognized. In 2001, he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature.