A Louisiana man is facing a sentence of 20 years to life for stealing a little over $30 worth of candy from a dollar store. Because Jacobia Grimes has been previously convicted of other theft-related felony offenses, the Orleans Parish district attorney decided to charge him as a habitual offender.
Under Louisiana law, any individual convicted of a fourth or subsequent felony offense—regardless of whether it's violent—faces no less than 20 years in prison and can be sentenced to up to the rest of his natural life. Because the two-decade requirement is mandatory, judges have no discretion at the time of sentencing.
While Grimes' case illustrates just how extreme this law can be, it's not unusual for Louisiana prisoners to serve decades in prison for a nonviolent crime. Louisiana is one of just a handful of states that allow nonviolent offenders to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole—meaning they'll die in prison. More than 175 individuals in the state are currently serving such sentences for nonviolent offenses. Until a recent Supreme Court decision, the state even allowed children to receive life without parole.