LAKE ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – A former convict and jewel thief will soon be sworn in as an honorary Lake St. Louis police officer.

Police Chief Michael Force says it’s because Larry Lawton has a program for keeping young people out of jail.

“There’s four segments to his plan,” the chief says of Lawton’s “Better Choices” program. “I think the most effective one has to do with what you lose when you go to prison. He talks about losing your freedom and losing your reputation and your self-respect but I think the one that hits home most with people is losing your family.”

Force has talked with young people that attended Lawton’s class and has seen firsthand how beneficial the program is.

“He distinguishes very strongly the difference between his program and a scared straight program. He says ‘I’m not trying to scare people because that doesn’t have a lasting effect.’ He says ‘I want them to honestly know what prison life is like and what they’re going to give up when they go to prison,'” Force explains.

According to Force, Lawton has a credibility that most speakers don’t have since “he’s been there and done that.”

“72 percent of the parents responded, about their children, that their attitudes had improved. 54 percent, if I remember right, improved their grades in school,” Chief Force says. “Those are good statistics.”


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