Charles Manson shows that there is not always hope for criminal reformation

Kati Gardella, Crier Staff

Charles Manson was many things: a twisted sociopath, a manipulator, and a cultural phenomenon. The media explosion of Manson and his omnipresence in pop culture brought him to the attention of nearly everyone in North America.

Like Dahmer, Manson infiltrated through many songs, movies, and television shows. The murders produced a media frenzy that only grew with the various trials of the Manson Family.

His appearance in the news spiked again this past November, when he fell sick, subsequently passing away on November 19, 2017.

Charles Manson is likely the most extreme criminal that we will encounter in our lifetimes. He was much more than a simple killer; Manson started a new era of terror. 

Every detail of Manson became iconic—from the phrase “Helter Skelter” to the swastika tattooed on his forehead. Everything about him was larger than life. Similar to many infamous criminals, however, Manson started off small.

He began with committing truancy as a student, stealing cars, and robbing grocery stores and casinos. Manson lacked prosocial family support, and was egged on by negative role models, such as his uncle, to continue robbing.

Authorities intervened and sent him to reform school, but Manson managed to escape after. He hopped from one penal institution to the next, but none made an impact. The severity of his crimes gradually increased, and all efforts of social control and correction were thwarted.

When he was released from prison in 1967, Manson took advantage of the hippie atmosphere of San Francisco, and formed his own miniature cult by targeting vulnerable runaways and enticing them with sex, drugs, and affection. Like many cult leaders, he saw himself as a godlike figure, and as the only means of achieving world salvation. 

He interpreted the Book of Revelation to his own perspective. His main prophecy was derived from verse 15 of the Book, “And the four angels were loosed, that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.”

This was the climax of the Helter Skelter ideology- that those who were black would revolt and kill off a third of the population. Manson’s solution to this insane prediction was to commit the Tate murders and put the blame on black citizens; creating racial tension that would erupt into a nationwide hatred of those of a different race.

Unlike Ted Bundy, another well-known killer and sociopath, Manson did not fit into the definition of a serial killer. There was no “cooling-off” period between kills, as is typical with serial murders.

Manson mostly fits in the definition of a cult leader whose teachings progressed to murder. The killings were methodically planned out with a chilling goal of producing a war between races.

Along with his apocalyptic stances, Manson’s personal vendettas fueled the killings. Manson attempted to make it in the music industry, and to this day has an unreleased album of acoustic pop.

His failure to get signed motivated him to target those who were high profile. Targeting the famous was also guaranteed to garner attention from the general public and respect from his followers.

For Manson, the attention never died out.

Even post-mortem, there will still be many efforts to try to untangle Manson’s warped mind. Manson often spoke in gibberish, and would start a thought and not fully finish it: “Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Man, your mind is going a billion miles an hour man. You know that’s what I call confusion. That’s Helter Skelter, you know.”

Viewers of interviews with Manson ate his bizarre quotes like candy. One of the several featured on Google is “you know, a long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy.”

Manson never seemed to grasp how much damage his crimes had caused, or expressed regret over the murders. He reportedly said that “killing someone is like walking to the drug store.” Death was only a means to an end to reach his personal goals.

Before Manson’s death, many on the internet asked questions like “will they ever release Manson from prison?” and “would Manson still be a danger to society if let out of prison?” It is very unlikely that Manson would be able to reintegrate and live a normal life.

Criminality was the only life that he knew. He spent his adolescence in and out of various correctional institutions, and only used freedom to plan more crimes.

Charles Manson is one of the rare few who cannot achieve reformation. After spending over four decades in prison and having such a blockbusting presence in the media, there was no hope of Manson having a normal life.

As always, it is important to learn from the past and scrutinize warning signs so that history does not repeat itself.