Criminal Justice

Alabama's 'Three Strikes' Law Sent Alvin Kennard to Prison for 36 Years. He Stole $50.

The man will finally be released from prison.

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An Alabama man who served 36 years of a life sentence for stealing approximately $50 from a bakery when he was 22 years old will be released from prison within the next few days. The case is a stark reminder of how little mercy is permitted under "three strikes" laws, which have seen people sentenced to die in prison for petty crimes.

In 1983, Alvin Kennard robbed Highlands Bakery of $50.75. The following year, because Kennard had three previous offenses, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole under the state's Habitual Felony Offender Act. (Though it is called a "three strikes" ordinance, the Alabama law actually kicks in on offense number 4.) The judge had no choice in the sentencing.

For those punished under the ordinance, Alabama's statute now leaves room for parole. The change did not apply retroactively, though, so Kennard, now 58, was not automatically put before a review board. His attorney, Carla Crowder, tells ABC News that Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff Circuit Judge David Carpenter did so on his own accord after becoming aware of the case and its disproportionate sentence.

"As incredible as this opportunity is for Mr. Kennard and as happy as we are for him, we know that there are hundreds of similarly situated incarcerated people in the state who don't have attorneys, who don't have a voice," Crowder told the outlet, noting that 250 prisoners in the state met with a similar sentencing fate, but have not been granted mercy.

Different versions of "three strikes" laws exist in several states across the country, as well as federally, in what's known as an 851 notice. The latter has seen about 800 inmates sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if they have three prior drug offenses. After prosecutors filed such a notice against Chris Young in 2014, the Tennessee man, then 26, was sentenced to a life in federal prison for a drug-related crime.

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  1. An Alabama man who served 36 years of a life sentence for stealing approximately $50 from a bakery when he was 22 years old will be released from prison within the next few days. The case is a stark reminder of how little mercy is permitted under “three strikes” laws, which have seen people sentenced to die in prison for petty crimes.

    Stop lying Billy. This guy committed other crimes and I would bet at least one of them involved violence.
    In fact, I bet the robbery of $50 was committed through violence or threats of violence.

    Judges also sentence defendants to ridiculous terms in prison based on their first offense.

    reason tends to pick shitty people for the sympathy card play.

    1. I would bet at least one of them involved violence.

      Well, you’d lose that bet.

      I bet the robbery of $50 was committed through violence or threats of violence.

      You’d win that one.

      Judges also sentence defendants to ridiculous terms in prison based on their first offense.

      That doesn’t apply here. We’re talking about a three strikes law which takes sentencing out of the Judge’s hands.

      Its not that hard to look this stuff up.

      1. “I would bet at least one of them involved violence.

        Well, you’d lose that bet.”

        No, he wouldn’t. He used a knife during the robbery.

        I looked it up, did take a bit under a minute to finally find a reasonably detailed account. (Almost none of the media outlets wanted to explain what his prior offenses were.)

        His prior offenses were two counts of burglary, and one of grand larceny, for which he was given a three year suspended sentence, and put on probation. He robbed the bakery while on that probation.

        So you can’t actually say the judicial system didn’t offer him mercy. It did, two years prior. He just stupidly failed to take advantage of it.

        The goal of three strike laws is to remove from society criminals who don’t have enough self-control to refrain from committing crimes, and thus are going to keep committing them, over and over and over. Looking at this guy’s record, it’s not unreasonable to think he’s a good example of that sort of criminal, and the only reason he doesn’t have a criminal record as long as your arm is that is he was in prison.

        Was storing him in prison cost effective? Maybe, maybe not. He had progressed to crimes of violence, who knows, maybe he’d have shot somebody during his next robbery. 3 strikes kept us from finding out.

        Well, he’s out on the street now, want to be he’ll be behind bars again in a couple of years?

    2. Libertarian and tough on crime? Thought it was one or the other.

      1. You are mistaken.

        Libertarians and less crimes on the books is accurate though.

        1. Fair enough. Also I read about the nature of his crimes which is not as petty as Mr. Binion makes them out to be. Three strike laws still suck though.

      2. People opposed to initiation of force are often hard on it.

      3. “Libertarian and tough on crime? Thought it was one or the other.”

        I’d say you’re wrong. As a libertarian for 30+ years, I’ve always believed that governments are instituted among men to secure our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; i.e., basically to protect us from others who’d initiate harm against us, by prosecuting them and creating an incentive to not do so.

        The “crime” libertarians aren’t tough on, are violations of laws that don’t harm others, in which case there shouldn’t be such laws. That includes laws taking your money for someone else’s benefit, in which case the people doing harm, are the two big government wolves who are forcing, via a vote, with a limited government sheep on what’s for dinner. It’s given government enough power to prosecute criminals, without oppressing otherwise law abiding citizens, that is the trick.

    3. EXACTLY

      it wasn’t even his 3rd strike, it was his 4th.
      Maybe not steal anything at all after strike 3?

      1. It was his fourth because they counted the first one three times.

    4. Billy is trying to get hired by the New York Times – All The News That Fits The Narrative.

      “Alabama’s ‘Three Strikes’ Law Sent Alvin Kennard to Prison for 36 Years. He Stole $50.”

      Billy is a malignant societal cancer.

      This is the kind of lying the Left does in their smug, self righteous arrogance, where they play Clintonesque word games to put one over on the plebes, patting themselves on the back all the while.

      Abusing the plebes’ naivete about your dishonesty is not really that clever. It just makes you scum.

      1. I will enjoy a nice Framboise when you are replaced, buybuy.

        To celebrate America’s continuing improvement.

        1. Reverend Vermin’s hatred is getting a little more specific.

    5. I really don’t even care about this guy either. If he was caught and convicted three times, he probably had 300 robberies to his name, which was the whole point of the law.

  2. What were his three other crimes?

    1. I am guessing that they were something more substantial than a $50 theft since nothing about them are mentioned other than they happened.

    2. It was a three-in-one, according to ABC news:

      In 1979, back when Kennard was 18 years old, he pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree burglary in connection with a break-in at an unoccupied service station, his pleading documents state. For those three charges, all of which were tied to that one incident, he was sentenced to three years’ probation.

      The next time he was convicted, for the bakery robbery — which was committed with a pocket knife and involved no injuries — he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

      https://abcnews.go.com/US/man-spent-36-years-prison-stealing-50-bakery/story?id=65264675

      1. Until I see his criminal record, I call bullshit.

        I called it though. He used a knife in the commission of a crime as a threat of violence if he didn’t get what he wanted.

        Fuck him.

        But 3 strikes has been abused. This guy is just not an excellent sympathetic defendant.

        1. I gotcha, I am a skeptical person too. I believe ABC’s reporting on his past record, personally. But I fully acknowledge my anti-prosecutor, anti-cop, anti-judge bias.

          I can be totally irrational when it comes to this stuff because I read about it way too much.

      2. So he brandished a deadly weapon

        Are we to believe he was an angel other than the times he was caught?

        1. If I were caught the first time I committed a crime, I’d give it up.

          If they missed the other 45 times…

          1. My first crime I was caught for was underage drinking and I didn’t give it up until I reached 21.

      3. According to the account I found, two counts of second degree burglary, and one of grand larceny.

  3. I’m going to assume that by 1983 he’d become what they call a violent career criminal.

    One key question is whether by 2019, having gone through his turbulent youth, he’s mellowed enough to be safe on the outside.

    In fact, if there is to be an article on the subject, it should follow his whole criminal career up to 1983, then document how in prison he came to see the error of his ways – if he did – so that he wouldn’t be endangering the community any more if released.

    Reason belongs to a movement which distinguishes between crimes with, and crimes without, victims, even going so far as to call for legalizing most of the latter. As an advocate of this distinction, one might think Reason could separate itself from the left-wing pack of OMG LOOK AT ALL THIS INCARCERATION WE GOTTA TURN PEOPLE LOOSE journalism and make some distinctions on who belongs in prison and who doesn’t.

    1. This is a textbook case in how journalism can undermine criminal justice reform efforts.

      1. +100

        There are far better people behind the scenes raising sympathetic cases to urge legislators to rollback criminal laws and penalties.

        The media was very instrumental in getting some of the worst criminal laws enacted. 3 strikes, Megan’s law….

      2. Bunion is a textbook shitty hack

      3. Haha. Yeah. It’s like they don’t understand how tiresome virtue signaling and pandering has become.

        Even if this guy does deserve some sympathy, writers like this do him no favors because of how shrill and self righteous the cry of “injustice”! has become.

    2. You make some really good points. I think there is something to be said for reducing sentences and trying to turn prisons into actual rehabilitation facilities rather than criminal hardening schools.

      1. I think there is something to be said for reducing sentences and trying to turn prisons into actual rehabilitation facilities rather than criminal hardening schools.

        And if we only prosecuted crimes with victims, that would be achievable.

        1. Disclaimer: I don’t know of a foolproof method of rehabilitating someone. They might not even pretend to be rehabilitated, and they might fake it until they get out of prison, then watch out!

          I’d think that the initial sentence should be based on what’s known about the criminal and his priors. Subsequent behavior in prison would be relevant to softening the sentence, if you can sort out the fakers, which I admit I don’t know how to do.

          1. I don’t know of a foolproof method of rehabilitating someone.

            I don’t think anyone does. We’ve got a problem alcoholic in the family, and he’s been a problem for about thirty years. He’s a master at pretending he’s seen the error of his ways and pretending to come around, only to sprint to the nearest liquor store the moment people turn their backs.

            But the current prison population is so large and so mixed with people who didn’t really do anything wrong, that just as the public school system has rendered itself incapable of educating, the prison system as it’s currently operating couldn’t even conceivably attempt to reform people.

            If you got to the point where only people who actually harmed or attempted to harm others were in prison, it might have some value to say “look, you’ve been through this system several times now, and you keep claiming to be reformed, but . . .”

          2. Prison can be a violent place and prisoners have to stay there, so conduct in prison is not always a fool proof metric.

            Good people don’t commit violent crimes over and over. Everyone makes a mistake or has the potential to be wrongfully convicted. Its the recidivism that is the most telling.

            Its partly why 3 strikes came about. A small portion of the most violent criminals were committing crimes and then getting “light” indeterminate sentences. They just kept committing crimes over and over. People were sick of it.

            Then those people were locked up for life and the prosecutors started using 3 strikes to get plea bargains by threatening life in prison for non-violent 3rd crimes.

            Victimless drug crimes skewed which defendants the system went after. The war on drugs just dragged most Americans into the fire.

          3. I don’t know of a foolproof method of rehabilitating someone.

            Personally, I don’t think there is a foolproof method of anything when it comes to modifying human behavior. But, right now, I think we can confidently state that we aren’t really trying at all outside of some drug diversion programs, AA meetings and some educational opportunities.

            And once these guys get out, they can’t get a job anyway so they go back to doing what they were doing before. Some of them deserve to be in there for life. Some of them are innocent. I’m willing to bet a large portion of them did 1 really fucked up thing when they were young and the system never gave them another chance to integrate into legal work ever again.

            1. I’d be terrified if there was a foolproof method of rehabilitating someone. Think of the implications, think of how the left views everyone who disagrees with them.

              “A foolproof method of rehabilitating someone” = “brainwashing”.

              As far as prisons, I’d be content if they weren’t criminal trade schools, and didn’t drive people nuts.

        2. And if we only prosecuted crimes with victims, that would be achievable.

          Yeah, reducing the prison population is a big deal, but it goes deeper than that. We shouldn’t be stacking charges on people just to get them to plead guilty. Because this is the routine, I think we have a way larger segment of the population jailed for crimes they didn’t commit than we are willing to admit.

          I’ve seen people submit that we get it right somewhere close to 98% of the time, but every time I look into their claims they seem to be based on Justice department data that includes all of those pleading guilty as actually being guilty. Someone looking at 40 years for 1 instance of criminality that legally allowed prosecutors to charge the person with 8 crimes might choose to plead guilty in exchange for 5 years of time… even if they’re not guilty. I believe that shit happens to poor people every single day.

          1. We shouldn’t be stacking charges on people just to get them to plead guilty.

            Definitely – this is part of the unhealthy incentive structure of having professional prosecutors, or as W. Blake used to call them, ‘professional Accusers.” Not sure how to solve that one, though.

            And yeah – assuming the courts are right 98% of the time is taking them at their own word, same way that I’ve been told repeatedly that the police know who the ‘bad guys’ are, they just lack the means to round them up. So that if, you know, you need plant a little something on a guy that you know is bad, then you’ll be able to prove he’s bad when the courts convict him.

            However, I’ve known enough drug dealers in my time to be able to assert with some confidence that the police, as a general rule, have no idea, and pick up the wrong people all the time.

            It was a fairly common thing not too long ago for young black men to get picked up and told “we’re pretty sure you raped a white woman, and we’re going to put you away for life unless you confess to this reduced charge.”

            So definitely eliminating victimless crimes is only one step. And probably the easiest one.

    3. “Reason belongs to a movement which distinguishes between crimes with, and crimes without, ”

      I’m afraid you’re behind the times. Reason belongs to the postmodern Left now. They don’t let tiresome prejudices of the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy like truth intrude on The Narrative.

  4. …and for how long.

  5. Putting aside the injustice of a life sentence for “stealing $50”, most three strikes laws require three felonies to kick in. A theft of $50 doesn’t come close to the threshold of a felony, so I’m guessing it was the threat at knifepoint that did him in here.

    For the record, I’m against three strikes laws because mandatory sentencing will always catch the cases on the fringes and result in an injustice. But he wasn’t jailed for “stealing $50”. He threatened someone at knife-point with the intent of at least leading the victim to believe that he’d bleed out slowly on the ground if he didn’t comply.

    1. I’m with you.

      Scumbag writers helped push for these types of punitive laws (3 strikes and Megans Law) and then they write to act like they are on the side of criminal justice reform.

      We need less laws, more personal responsibility, and less incentives for the state to use defendants who fucked up as pawns.

      1. Scumbag writers helped push for these types of punitive laws

        Writers also pushed to get the Holocaust started.

        Fucking writers.

    2. “A theft of $50 doesn’t come close to the threshold of a felony,…”

      The conviction was about armed robbery. His armament was a knife. That he only netted $50 during the course of armed robbery is of no consequence.
      If you happen to have only a few bucks in your wallet when someone pokes a gun in your ribs, does that somehow make it a lesser crime than if you just cashed your paycheck? Hell no it doesn’t. Armed robbery was his crime. Describing it as $50 theft is just a bullshit evasion.

      1. If he’d have gotten $0 from the robbery, then he’d be spending time in jail for nothing at all!

      2. That is how reason does it.

        Pick a violent armed robber and spin the story to avoid his life of crime. Compare his case to simply drug users who never committed a violent crime to gain sympathy for some agenda.

  6. My former buddy after drinking some vodka always exposed himself to elderly women. Under the 3 strikes law he was incarcerated without parole. If let go he would continue his drunken perversions. Should he be released?

    1. My former buddy after drinking some vodka always exposed himself to elderly women. Under the 3 strikes law he was incarcerated without parole.

      Nice try, but Indecent Exposure is a misdemeanor, not a felony.

    2. My former buddy after drinking some vodka always exposed himself to elderly women.

      *looks around nervously*

    3. Has he tried switching to Guinness?

      1. (Just wait, I bet I get mocked just for trying some “outside the box” thinking)

  7. He was sentenced for stealing $50.00 like Jean Valjean was sentenced to 19 years, then hounded by Javert, for stealing bread.

  8. GOOD! The law worked and saved dozens of other people from being robbed or worse. Only an inferior brain would risk prison for $50, and those are the ones that tend to over react and cause violence over the slightest perceived insult . Great law!

  9. That’s what you get for violating the NAP.
    Don’t want to go to jail? Don’t point knives at people and demand they give you all their shit.

  10. Odd that something with a victim even qualifies as a crime there. The whole attraction of the Doomsday Machine approach to deterrence is that it eliminates “human meddling,” right?

  11. The scumbag should have been crucified (or hung in chains) next to the donut shop 36 years ago. Aged crows could be cawing about that time they ate his eyeballs.

    1. I don’t think even the most creative marketing department would want to advertise their donut shop by having the decaying body of a hanged man outside.

      1. A crucified one draws lots of fans.

  12. Apparently, Reason’s version of libertarianism is one of pacifism. One where citizens commit crimes against other citizens and are treated with baby gloves.

    This turd of a human was on his FOURTH conviction. He had already committed burglary and grand larceny BEFORE he robbed a store.

    Keep in mind, these are only the crimes he was CAUGHT doing. I can only guess how many other crimes this ass clown did that he got away with.

    Libertarianism and weakness on crime are not one and the same- at least not for me.

    1. We can only guess how many crimes YOU got away with!

      Is that the standard you want?

      1. No. The standard I want is for criminals of violent crimes to be executed and criminals of property crimes to be severely punished.

        I suppose you think a man convicted of 4 crimes, with overwhelming proof, happened to commit only those 4 crimes in his lifetime.

        You need to smell what you’re shoveling.

  13. I realize this is probably an unpopular comment but why would I want to send him to prison for 36 years at a cost of probably around 50 thousand dollars a year that I as a taxpayer must help to pay. I will be the first to stand up and release all people in jail for victimless crimes and repeal the stupid laws that put them there but and this is a big but; this wasn’t a victimless crime and the way our judicial system works he probably got a slap on the wrist several times before actually going to jail the first time. Since by the second time he actual spent time in prison he was to stupid to understand that taking property that doesn’t belong to him is wrong then it would be a kindness to society to just execute the idiot.

    1. The reason you want to send him to prison for 36 years at a cost of around $50k a year, is that you’re not looking at all the crimes he’d have been committing over the last 36 years if he hadn’t been in prison.

      Fences don’t pay good money for stuff. In order to clear a decent income, heck to clear the poverty line, (Because most burglars DON’T clear a decent income!) the burglar has to steal $500k or so a year, and cause no small amount of property damage and human suffering along the way.

      For your average career criminal, $50k a year for incapacitation is a bargain.

      Now, I suppose you could argue that a guy who got nailed on two burglaries, and then committed an armed robbery while on parole, was going to stop and go straight if he’d just been sent to prison for a couple years. Maybe, but criminologists wouldn’t tell you that was a smart bet.

  14. Hm. If the comments here are correct, then there’s more to this story. And so why is Reason not digging deeper?

    It’s one thing to not like ‘Three strikes’ but you have to expand on why in this case. What were the previous offences and why did he keep committing crimes are very relevant questions as it relays to ‘Three strikes’, no?

    I really expect more ‘where’s the beef?’ from Reason.

  15. Almost everyone deserves a second chance.
    No one deserves a third chance.

  16. Dude breaks into an unoccupied building as a teenager. Foolishly pleads to 3 counts on the advice of a públic defender. A few years later flashes a pocket knife at a bakery and makes off with a cool 50 bucks. Libertarians declare him public enemy 1 and demand he spend the rest of his life behind bars. Fuck you all.

    1. Yeah, I’m cool with declaring him a public enemy, because almost everybody is moral, or at least sensible enough, not to do that sort of thing.

      I don’t want the government punishing people for crimes that don’t have victims. But I want to government to come down like a ton of bricks on people who commit crimes that DO have victims, like burglary, or robbing people at knife point.

      “Dude breaks into an unoccupied building as a teenager.”

      You must have some other dude in mind.

    2. I have no sympathy for people who commit real crimes of violence. And robbery by threat of violence is violent crime.

      Dude breaks into an unoccupied building as a teenager.
      You’re almost certainly mistaken. I don’t have the desire to go digging but his prior conviction was 2 counts of burglary and one of grand larceny. Three years later he robs a bakery, while on probation. This speaks to a pattern.

      I’ve been poor before. I did not go rob a bakery with a knife because I needed to pay the bills. I won’t speculate why certain people are unable to follow the law. But we do need a place to put those people, because they need a LONG time to chill out and discover philosophy. I sincerely hope Mr. Kennard has done so and can live the remainder of his days a free man.

      Were there a better way I would be for it. There is not. The alternative is to take people who are fundamentally dishonest at their word that they are “changed” and “won’t do it again”. Only a naive fool or a lawless knave would deem this acceptable.

  17. Libertarians must begin to find some common sense at some point. Strawmen and the sad sack cases are not what policy should be built upon. 3 strikes laws are attempting to combat recidivism. Are they blunt tools in a complex world? Of fucking course. The issue is how many times can a man prove he is going to commit crimes no matter what before he gets the boot from society? What he happens to get caught doing for his third arrest and conviction is not as relevant as what he may do if released yet again, but it seems quite certain it won’t be charity and good will towards men.

  18. And further, let’s say a man has been arrested and convicted of three separate criminal offenses. Any reasonable man is aware of the fact that he likely committed far more crimes than he was caught and convicted for and if released at this point will likely commit far more crimes that the state won’t capture him for and the working man will just have to eat the cost with a filed police report that is filed away for all time.

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