We are proud to congratulate Carla Crowder, Executive Director of Alabama Appleseed, for her role in the recent release of Alvin Kennard from prison in Alabama where he had been serving a life sentence without parole for robbing a bakery of $50 thirty-six years ago.
Last month, Carla stood with Alvin as the judge righted this wrong and resentenced this 58-year-old man to time served. The courtroom erupted with joy from the crowd gathered to support a man who previously had been condemned to die in prison.
There are hundreds more like Alvin in Alabama’s prisons, men and women serving life without parole for offenses in which no one was injured. There are thousands more serving life sentences who are at the whim of an increasingly politicized parole board. Alabama’s embrace of permanent punishment has contributed to the prison crisis. Alabama has the most overcrowded, corrupt, and violent prisons in the country, described as unconstitutional by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Carla has continued to shine a light on the injustice suffered by many Alabamians through an Op-Ed on the atrocities of Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act published in the New York Times. Her work has been reported on by CNN and she was interviewed by the BBC on her role in the re sentencing and the lasting impact of the “Three Strikes Law.”
The Habitual Felony Offender Act, otherwise known as the “Three Strikes Law,” allows life sentences to be given in cases other than homicide if the defendant has three prior felony convictions. Mr. Kennard had been convicted of three property crimes at age 18 prior to his robbery of a bakery with a pocket knife, and therefore faced a mandatory sentence of life without parole. There are many others in Alabama prisons who face similar life without the possibility of parole sentencing for crimes such as the theft of bicycles or marijuana possession due to the Habitual Felony Offender Act, as Carla pointed out in the BBC interview.
“It’s really shocking how easy it is for someone who does not have a long history of crime, [and who] does not have serious crime on the record to end up with these sentences,” Carla tells the BBC reporter, “what we are going to continue to do at Alabama Appleseed and at some of the other civil rights and advocacy organizations in the state is really raise awareness that there are still hundreds of people stuck in prisons in Alabama [due to the Habitual Felony Offender Act].”
“I want to live in a culture that acknowledges humans’ capacity to grow and to change and is willing to give people a second chance,” Carla says.
We are grateful to have someone like Carla who is so dedicated to systemic reform in the Appleseed Network. We want to congratulate her on the successful resentencing of Mr. Kennard and her continued work on behalf of all Alabamians. You can find her New York Times Op-Ed, CNN media story, and BBC interview (beginning at minute 6:40 in the audio) via the links below:
36 Years in Prison for a $50 Robbery
He was sentenced to life in prison decades ago after stealing $50. Now he’s set to walk free
Up all night (Interview begins at minute 6:40)
We encourage you to support Carla and the Alabama Appleseed team as they continue this important work.