Do Not Send Small-Time, Nonviolent Offenders to Prison for Decades

Prison cell

Target: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

Goal: Modify the mandatory twenty years to life prison sentence for repeat offenders.

Louisiana’s habitual offender law has recently received a lot of negative publicity because of a case involving Jacobia Grimes, a 34-year-old man who could face 20 years to life in prison for stealing $31 worth of Snickers candy bars. Grimes has previous theft convictions on his record, making his theft of Snickers bars a felony with severe consequences as opposed to just a misdemeanor. The severity of this case is both absurd and life threatening.

This law is alarming in that it gives an unfair advantage to the prosecution. A spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney has stated that he does not plan on pressing for a hard sentence. However, Grimes’ punishment is only part of this story. His case is shining light on just how corrupt this law is. It puts all of the power in the hands of the prosecution. The mere possibility of such severe punishment forces offenders to plead guilty for a reduced sentence rather than fight the case and risk a lengthier prison term.

The law has already failed in the past. Gregory Hartshorn, who had previous criminal drug charges, agreed to a plea bargain with a 10 year sentence for a carjacking he did not commit, rather than face the possibility of 40 years in prison. Evidence later appeared that supported Hartshorn’s innocence, but the prosecutors declined to take action.

This law is a crucial component of a Louisiana’s infamously corrupt legal system. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the United States. This law has made it impossible for people with minuscule criminal history to escape a system that seemingly wants to lock them in jail for lengthy terms. Sign this petition to demand the habitual offender law is changed.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Edwards,

Your state is widely recognized for being home to overflowing prisons that are a direct result of a corrupt justice system. Jacobia Grimes is fearing that his life may be over after stealing $31 worth of candy bars. People close to him have said that his criminal record is due to his drug addiction and lack of education. It is clear that your legal system is failing your people.

Another man named Bernard Noble, who had previous drug charges, was caught with 2.8 grams of marijuana. He is now serving a sentence of 13 years in jail. The New Orleans Advocate has reported that Louisiana spends an estimated $20,000 a year to house an inmate. That translates to taxpayers paying around $260,000 on keeping Bernard Noble, who was caught with a small amount of a drug that is now legal in many states, in prison.

This law does not need to be eliminated entirely. It desperately needs modification. An ideal habitual offender law would be limited to crimes of sexual assault, violence and home invasions. Modifying this law would decrease incarceration rates. We demand that the habitual offender law is changed so that its victims receive justice, and so that future offenders do not have to fear for their lives.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Dylan Oliphant

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362 Signatures

  • Eric von Borstel
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