Prisons stay on high alert as Williams execution nears
Mason Stockstill and Sara Carter, Staff Writers
State prison officials are concerned the impending execution of former gang kingpin Stanley "Tookie" Williams could lead to an increase in violence among inmates.
Williams, a co-founder of the Crips street gang, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 13. He plans to ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to commute his sentence to life in prison.
On the day of Williams' execution, San Quentin the prison where California's condemned inmates are held will go on lockdown, and additional security measures will be in place, said a Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman.
"Clearly, there's a heightened awareness due to the media reports and his affiliation as a co-founder of the Crips," said spokesman Todd Slosek. "We will take added precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the institution."
Those procedures are always put in place when a death-row inmate is executed, Slosek said. The same protocol was followed when convicted murderer Donald Beardslee was put to death in January.
However, some correctional officers are concerned that because Williams is a prominent member of the gang, which has thousands of members incarcerated in California prisons, inmate assaults against staff could increase as the execution date draws near.
"We have heard that rumored ," said Martin Aroian, president of the Chino chapter of the correctional officers union. "I don't have anything official."
Several messages posted to an online forum by correctional officers mention rumors that the Crips will have a "green light" on prison staff and other law enforcement officers.
In 2003, prison officials locked down black inmates at Corcoran State Prison after discovering a note linking possible assaults on staff by Crips with Williams' impending sentence.
Slosek said there has not been any increased "chatter" among gang inmates in recent weeks surrounding the upcoming execution.
Williams, 51, was sentenced
to death in 1981 for the fatal shooting of a convenience-store worker during a 1979 robbery. He also has been convicted of three other murders.
His pleas for clemency have garnered public attention due to the efforts Williams has made since he was incarcerated to persuade children not to adopt a gang life. He has written several books outlining the dangers of joining a gang, and his Web site www.tookie.com
features testimonials from former gang members who say his story changed their lives. Also, in 2000, five members of the Swiss parliament nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Several former gang members in San Bernardino said Williams' death would be a tragedy for youth already caught up in gang life.
"Tookie has become a hero to the kids on the street," said a former gang member who goes by the moniker Evbody. "If he's put to death, it's going to get worse out there, because what hope will they have? Even if you change, it still doesn't matter."
Regardless, should Williams fail in his attempts to have his death sentence commuted, he'll be given a lethal injection less than six weeks from today.
"This will be probably one of the higher-notoriety executions since the reinstatement of the death penalty," Slosek said. "We have a job to do: carry out the law and the death warrant that was issued by the judge."