I’m a little mixed on the whole "Tookie" Williams matter. Let me say for starters that I am a supporter of the death penalty in general for the most heinous offenders. I don’t know how much of a deterrant it is, but some criminals are beyond redemption and simply shouldn’t be allowed to continue to live.
With regards to Williams, however, it seems as though he has built up a respectable body of work since he has been in prison in the area of trying to dissuade young people from getting into gangs and crime and that is, of course, a very noble pursuit. Nancy Reagan ("Just say no!") is all well and good but let’s face it – if you’re an urban youth in Los Angeles a rich white lady who has probably only seen South-Central thru bullet proof glass as her motorcade rushed by is just not going to reach you the way somebody who is from those same streets and really understands the challenges of that life is.
Williams has made mistakes and done terrible things. He’s exactly the kind of person who can reach out to troubled youth who are on the verge of those same mistakes and counsel them. But then comes the question of his sincerity. Does he truly want to help kids turn their lives to the positive, or was it just a ploy to get clemency? I don’t know the answer to that question.
Also it troubles me a bit that Williams has never admitted to the murders for which he was convicted. I suppose that could be because he didn’t do it, though I’ve seen no evidence to indicate there was anything wrong with his conviction.
If Governor Schwarzenegger believes Williams to be sincere in his espoused beliefs then I think clemency would be the right thing to do. Life in prison without possibility of parole would allow Williams to continue to do good work whle posing no threat to the community. Either way Williams is going to die in prison; it’s just a matter of when. If paying one’s debt to society is what it’s all about then it seems to me that he can continue to pay that debt by continuing to do good works. He can’t pay anything if he’s dead.