Alvin Kennard just spent 36 years in prison. His crime? Stealing £40 from a bakery cash register in 1983. Three years later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without possible parole.
Why such severity? The then 22-year-old American is from Alabama, a state in which there is a particularly harsh law called ‘three strikes’ that stipulates that it is possible to impose life sentences on defendants convicted for the third time of a crime or misdemeanour, even a minor and non-violent one.
Yet the man was not a true hardened criminal. At 18, for example, he had been sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence for breaking and entering a gas station. He then pleaded guilty to the three charges pressed against him, as reported on the AL site. This conviction made him eligible for the ‘three strikes’ sentence.
Released after 36 years in prison
It is only after 36 long years behind bars that Alvin Kennard was released. An Alabama judge ordered his release from prison, in particular with the aim of reducing prison overcrowding in this southern state of the United States.
It was a local association, the Alabama Appleseed Centre for Law and Justice, that obtained his release through a reduced sentence. His lawyer, Carla Crowder, said he had been an exemplary prisoner who had found faith in prison. During the hearing, dressed in a prisoner's red and white uniform, Alvin Kennard said he regretted his act and apologised. Several members of his family and friends were there to assure the judge that they would help him reintegrate.
Numerous similar cases
Carla Crowder pointed out that hundreds of prisoners in similar situations were still in prison because they had not received any particular help. ‘It's incredibly unfair that hundreds of people in Alabama are in prison for life for non-violent crimes,’ she concluded.