Alabama’s Habitual Offender Law Keeps Man In Jail For 38 Years After Stealing $9

Screengrab / @bshelburne / Twitter

Sarah Shaiman

The Habitual Offender Law has contributed to people serving 27 percent longer sentences in the state of Alabama.

A 62-year-old man has been kept in jail for the past 38 years for stealing $9 due to Alabama’s habitual offender law, according to NewsOne.

  • Willie Simmons was 25 years old when sentenced to live in prison without parole for first-degree robbery in 1982. He had three prior convictions and therefore the state of Alabama said he “should die in prison,” journalist Beth Shelburne reported.
  • Shelbourne detailed her recent conversation with Simmons in a lengthy Twitter thread.

  • Simmons told the journalist he was “high on drugs” when he wrestled a man to the ground for his wallet, which only contained $9. He said he takes full responsibility for his actions.
  • His trial lasted just 25 minutes, his attorney called on no witnesses, and he was offered no plea deal despite the fact his other offenses were nonviolent.
  • Simmons has not had a visitor since 2005 after his sister passed away. Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama, is one of the “most violent prisons in the country,” Shelbourne said.
  • Simmons is studying for his GED and says he stays away from “the wild bunch.”
  • All of Simmons’ appeals have been denied over the years. He said, “I ain’t got nobody on the outside to call and talk to. Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in outer space.”

The Habitual Offender law has been highly criticized in the state of Alabama. It keeps people serving longer sentences and overcrowding the prison system. Because Simmons committed a Class A felony and had three prior convictions, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Read more here.


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