US Marijuana Party

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Lawmakers must have courage to fix injustice of state's habitual offender law

The Birmingham News
Sunday, December 18, 2005

My son has battled drug addiction for years. Twenty years ago, at the age of 18, he was involved in his first infraction with the law. He was with two others when one of them decided to rob a store. He was the only one prosecuted, was sentenced as an adult, paid restitution and served time. Strike one.

I prosecuted my own child in 1993 when he took my camcorder. Strike two.

In 1996, he went crazy on drugs and stole again - from unoccupied dwellings. Strike three. Life without parole.

Life without parole for a drug addict who stole from unoccupied dwellings, with no one killed or seriously injured. A death sentence is the only drug rehabilitation in our maximum-security prison system that my son was offered at that time.

After being in prison more than nine years, taking every self-improvement course or class that was available to him and being drug-free for all of this time with no disciplinaries or write-ups while incarcerated, he is still there. I have fought our injustice system with God as my guide, and the Nonviolent Habitual Offender Law was changed. Many inmates have received reduced sentences, but only two or three have been released. If these and others were sentenced by today's standards, they would not be there.

While I was working to make changes on the outside, my son was attacking his prior convictions on the inside, trying to help himself from his death sentence. He got one offense, from 1993, removed from his record through the Alabama Supreme Court, only to be recharged and sentenced again for the same crime. He has come up for parole and was put off five years, with no explanation as to what the parole board wanted. No reason was given. He has a perfect prison record.

Can't our lawmakers admit they made a mistake and correct it? This is what is wrong with our injustice system, but no one wants to take a stand and correct it.

Diana Summerford



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