An Alabama man who spent the last 36 years behind bars for stealing 50 bucks and some change from a bakery when he was 22 will soon be released from prison.
Alvin Kennard was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole back in 1984 for the theft, ABC News reports. At the time, it was the law in the state to sentence someone to life if it was their fourth offense. That law, the Habitual Felony Offender Act, has since been changed. Fourth-time offenders can have the possibility of parole now.
However, since that change wasn’t made retroactively, Kennard was not re-sentenced. But recently, a judge decided to look into what they found to be a harsh sentence for this Jean Valjean-esq crime.
Kennard, now 58, was ordered to be released after being re-sentenced to time served Wednesday, August 28, USA Today reports.
"The judge in this case noticed how odd it seemed that someone was serving life without parole for a $50 robbery," Kennard’s attorney, Carla Crowder, told ABC News."This was a judge that kind of went out of his way.”
Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff Circuit Judge David Carpenter’s curiosity triggered the release of Kennard, who is scheduled to be released some time over the next few days.
“I just threw my hands up and said, ‘God, I thank you, I thank you,’” Kennard’s niece Patricia Jones told WBRC after the judge made the decision to release her uncle.
Kennard’s three prior offenses before the bakery theft, where he wielded a pocket knife to steal $50.75 from Highlands Bakery in Bessemer, were all non-violent property crimes.
Before he was re-sentenced to time served on Wednesday, Kennard took the time to apologize for his past in court, WIAT in Birmingham, Alabama reports.
“I just want to say I’m sorry for what I did,” he told the court. “I take responsibility for what I did in the past. I want the opportunity to get it right.”
He said he plans to live with family in Bessemer and work in carpentry.
"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 ABC News. "As this state grapples with the Department of Justice involvement and unconstitutional prisons, I would hope our lawmakers, our courts and our governor would do more to address these injustices."
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