From Disgrace to Dignity: Redemption in the Life of Willie Rico Johnson
From Disgrace to Dignity: Redemption in the Life of Willie Rico Johnson examines the life of Rico Johnson who became the head of the Conservative Vice Lords, one of the largest street gangs in the United States. In addition to highlighting his life, this work considers how redemption has affected his life. In addition, Minister Rico is identified as a Godfather. Much like the Godfathers found in organized crime families, Rico sees himself as providing a positive force to Vice Lords' gang members. On one hand, what this involves is taking care of their needs (he feeds 150 families a day) and, on the other hand, providing guidance and direction for members' lives. ""From Disgrace to Dignity is an important, and in some ways, enlightening book. It puts flesh on the bones of what it means to be in a gang and the leader of a gang. More importantly, it provides a personal context which is often lacking in gang literature . . . Bartollas is correct when he points out that Rico Johnson's evolution into a changed human being is more about redemption than rehabilitation, more about changes that run deep into the root of one's being than simply living within the boundaries of the law. --Michael Braswell, Professor Emeritus, East Tennessee State University ""While in the Illinois Department of Corrections, Mr. Willie Johnson provided invaluable administration and human resources in the following 21st Century Vote and in the Gang Truce, which resulted in the dramatic reduction in gang homicide rates in Chicago and elsewhere . . . After being released from prison Mr. Johnson has continued to be a positive force for change."" --Nehemiah Russell, former assistant principal of Englewood High School in Chicago ""All of my life I've been in jail because of criminal behavior; I have been in prison five or six times. When I lost my mom, Rico showed me so much love . . . There were times in the joint when I was ready to go crazy. He would pick me up. He did far more for me than I did for him. I have been out of prison now for twenty-five years."" --Carl O'Neill, former inmate who has spent time in prison with Rico Johnson and who has become a strong leader in his church ""Rico has a gift. He is determined, actually one of the most determined people I've ever known. He is able to communicate, and is concerned that we are able to do something for the community."" --Vincent Denny, former inmate who served prison time with Rico Johnson ""Minister Rico is a great and awesome guy who has influenced a lot of people. He has taught me how to become involved in positive groups. He likes to say that we need to avoid going the wrong way, because he went the wrong way and has done enough time for everybody. He is a good leader. He may be a small guy, but he is a hell of a thinker. He has seen it all. I have never heard him say anything wrong or negative. He is also extremely sincere."" --Alonzo James, former inmate who served prison time with Rico Johnson ""Rahim is a remarkable man, who has overcome so much in his life, and yet has always managed to contribute in a positive manner to the lives of other individuals."" --Walter A. Grey, an inmate who has spent years in prison with Rico Johnson Clemens Bartollas is Professor of Sociology at the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. His publications include fifty some books and a number of articles. He has published in the areas of criminology, biographies, and spirituality. He has received a number of awards from the University of Northern Iowa, including Distinguished Scholar, the Deonald McKay Research Award for faculty excellence.