New Iberia lawyer William Nonin says in his July 4 letter that sentencing reforms, as suggested by Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine D. Kimball, will not lower the amount spent on our increasing prison population. He refers to Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates at Angola “who must be locked away for a long time, or even for life, for the protection of society.” He confuses the issue of length of imprisonment to crime committed in Louisiana.
Some of those serving life at Angola are there not for murder or rape. They are there because crack or heroin won their lives, and anti-drug laws keep them incarcerated for outrageously long sentences. The majority of men who have already spent 15 years at Angola are middle-aged and have matured, learned and are not the stupid, thoughtless youngsters they once were doing wrong. It is said that “criminal menopause” starts at 50 years old! And isn’t 15 years a long time to serve for drug addiction?
I am engaged to a man serving life without the possibility of parole because of the state’s “three strikes” law. His first strike: a purse snatching. He got probation. His second strike: helping (by request) an undercover officer find and buy a $10 bag of crack, and then being tipped $5 for his effort. He served five years at Hunt Correctional Center for that. His third strike: He became a crack addict after his release from Hunt and carjacked two cars.
He used no weapon in any of his crimes! Two damaged cars and a stolen purse earned him life at Angola without the possibility of parole! He’s shared prison space at Angola for 15 years already with the rapists and murderers.
He’s not the only man at this prison — without air conditioning in the inmate living quarters in these Louisiana summers — serving life for victimless, mostly drug-use crimes. It’s these “lifers,” who deserve sentencing reforms.
If I could be Chief Justice Kimball, I’d order my fiancé, a Class A trusty, out those penitentiary gates and into the care of me, with whom he will not need to worry about housing, food, clothes, and can pursue, without stress, future employment options. He’s already a certified welder, a club instructor and an award-winning orator with much to tell young people about their future if they get involved in cocaine. He would never be a problem again. Yet, without sentencing reform in this state, he will never be freed.
With the release of these middle-aged lifers, much money could be saved to help pay for what really is and will always be needed in Angola — a place to incarcerate the truly violent men.
retired education public relations