In Prison since 1982 for Stealing $9

Sure. I have absolutely no problem with that. I just think there must be a better way to do this than locking them up in a building known as a “jail”, with all that that entails. Surely there must be an alternative solution which achieves the same result but is (a) cheaper (b) works better for all concerned and (c ) doesn’t have a high probability of making the inmate an even worse bastard than he was already?

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True. But I had the impression that the story was more serious than that.


Not sure what you mean, tando.

Sure. It’s called taking them out back with a pistol. Even less popular than what we have, though.

Some people deserve that. But I wouldn’t argue in favour of it simply because somebody has to pull the trigger. There’s a difference, IMO, between a soldier pulling a trigger in a combat situation and a cold-blooded killing, however guilty the person being shot. I can’t put my finger on precisely what it is, though.

I definitely wouldn’t argue in favour of it for petty criminals. Some of them are just irredeemable assholes who are a waste of space and air. Some of them can sort themselves out … eventually. The weird thing is there’s no way of telling which is which; no psychometric test which can determine who is capable of redemption and who should never be allowed back into polite society. The only humane thing to do is to sit and wait and find out which scenario plays out. But the prisoner should fund his own rehabilitation. And he shouldn’t be placed among other criminals from whom he will learn nothing except how to be a worse criminal.

I think its called @tando interventionism.

Maybe some kind of matrix like alternative reality where the prisoner has to battle through a virtual wilderness and beat tests of moral endurance until worthiness to rejoin society is achieved?

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Nobody has argued for it for hundreds of years now in the West. From what I’ve read, this guy isn’t in prison for stealing $9, though. He’s in prison for the (much) worse crimes he committed before then. I’m sure he was warned that to avoid spending 38+ years in prison he must avoid all future crime. Which he failed at, unfortunately.

I still don’t see any reason to remove Alabama from justice for Alabamans.

A friend of mine was killed in front of a shopping center strip mall when held up at gun point couple of years ago. The robbers attempted to car jack his Audi R8 and instead took his AP ROO watch and shot him in the chest at a Target parking lot in Brea while his 9 year old son watch him bleed to death .


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Can’t really argue with that, but then I’m not a criminal, and the unfortunate fact is that this sort of logic is lost on them. Consider that Europe had horrible punishments for petty crimes right up until the 18th century - but people still committed petty crimes. In fact by all accounts petty crime was at epidemic levels while those punishments were on the books. The deterrent value of punishment doesn’t correlate with the severity of punishment. This is a pretty reliable result in research across different cultures and different periods of history.

Don’t think anyone is suggesting that. But Alabama might save themselves some tax $ if they update their legal system to take practical observations into account.


You jest, but perhaps something like that is possible. I don’t see that it needs to be high-tech. Just put them somewhere where (a) they have to behave somewhat like human beings or they’ll starve and/or die of exposure and (b) behaving like human beings brings a moderately comfortable existence. It wouldn’t work with psychopaths, but it might for the typical rodent-like youths that make up the bulk of the low-security-prison population; I suspect the guy in question was one of those, when he was 25.

A big problem is the way these issues are presented by the media. 38 years for stealing $9! That’s ridiculous. But, of course people aren’t daft and they look further into it.

If the initial story had led with something like “62 year old man still in jail after 38 years” I think they’d have garnered more support. Headlines like that don’t generate clicks, though.

After the guy is imprisoned the deterrent effect is lost on him. However, what no one can measure is the effect his story has on Alabamans watching on. Who knows how many young Alabamans learned his story and decided, hum, there might be better decisions to be made? Certainly putting this guy away reinforces the relationship between crime and punishment in Alabama, which is a good for society and also unmeasurable.

The state just north, Tennessee, has embarked on a California-style program to empty its prisons of many prisoners. I doubt they are so knuckleheaded as California and will make any non-violent theft below $945 merely a ticketable offense, but it should still be an interesting social experiment.

Yes, the whole $9!!! thing is way misleading.

Took him 20 years inside to get sober.
Still working on getting a high school equivalency diploma.

What exactly is going to do when he gets out but go directly on Social Security?


You’d think something like “3 strikes 10-year minimum” would be sufficient to get the point across, and would avoid this type of obviously barbaric result. Longer sentences would still be an option depending on the severity of the crime and previous history.


He’s probably not going to be of much use, but that’s not really the issue in terms of justice.

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I think that was part of the logic of the penal colonies. Was better than getting locked up, although I think a lot of people wound up getting deported to penal colonies on whims. Like getting deported for not being able to pay a debt, or for political agitation, or just press ganged onto the boat to make up the numbers

You’d think Clinton would have thunk that whole crime bill through more thoroughly.

I just think the crime needs to be worse to sentence a person to prison for half their natural life. None of his prior convictions were of the violent nature. He was an addict that made horrible decisions under addiction. He deserves to pay for his crime, but come on. Almost 40 years? No way. This kind of sentence should be reserved for the worst crimes in society like murder or rape. Murders and rapists don’t even get 40 years.


This guy robbed $50 and got the same sentence, but will be freed. What are differences between them?

From Wikipedia

Alabama has had a habitual felon statute for serious and violent felons since 1977, providing for up to life imprisonment, and includes a mandatory life sentence without parole for three or more felony convictions for any crime and one of those convictions were for any offense classified as a Class A Felony (10–99 years or life).

US people may not have much time to interven in other countries justice.


The differences could be innumerable. The wording in the sentencing judgment by the judge, the community’s and all the victim family’s interactions in any parole hearings, how the prisoner behaves before the parole board, etc.

The US is a big place with lots of legal jurisdictions. If you choose to lead a life of crime then you’re embarking on a crap shoot the size and stakes of which you may well not realize at the time. Alas.

I do not agree with many attempts by the US to intervene in the justice system of other countries. I think China’s criminal system is an abomination, but there’s not much we in the US can do about it aside from marginally. This is true for most nations not in the Western hemisphere … and even then I think most nations there know more about what kinds of justice work for them than we do most of the time.