Inmates Get Hard Sail


Lee Stanley, a Westlake Village resident, believed that there was cause for hope when he created the Wings Foundation, a nonprofit organization that reaches out to incarcerated youth, helping them to shed their destructive tendencies and return to society.

“I believe no matter what the background, no matter what the crime, there is a kid deep inside worth saving,” he said.

“Desperate Passage” first aired on television 10 years ago. It documents a 10-day sailing excursion that Stanley, a film producer-turned-chaplain, took with seven youth-camp inmates. Stanley’s goal was to break down the boys’ “tough guy” facades and “get to the person underneath.”


By journey’s end real changes had taken place in the boys’ attitudes, and the impact of the experience proved powerful to crew members and viewers alike. “Desperate Passage” garnered three Emmys.

A year and a half ago, Stanley embarked on another sailing journey. This time the crew was composed of six young women--ages 15 to 18--all inmates of a maximum-security juvenile facility in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“They were rival gang members from hard-core street gangs locked up for major crimes,” Stanley said.

A show about their voyage, “Maiden Voyage,” will air 8 p.m. Monday on Channel 5.

“We want the real person to come to the surface,” Stanley said. “This is what I want to show people. There is hope.”

“Sailing gets them in a setting that they can’t run from and they have to confront themselves and each other,” he said. “There’s nowhere to hide. It requires teamwork and cooperation. They become literally a family--from hating each other to embracing each other.”