Opinion | 36 Years in Prison for a $50 Robbery – The New York Times

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Ms. Crowder is a public-interest lawyer.

CreditCreditIvana Hrynkiw/The Birmingham News, via Associated Press

“MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alvin Kennard, a 58-year-old Alabama man who spent most of his life behind bars for a $50 knife-point robbery at a bakery, walked free last Friday. He felt the warm embrace of his family, attended church and ate a home-cooked meal for the first time in 36 years.

The State of Alabama fully intended for Mr. Kennard to die in prison for this crime. He was one of more than 250 people in the state serving life without the possibility of parole for robbery, according to a document provided in a legal proceeding this year by the Alabama Department of Corrections. Many of them have been behind bars since the 1980s.

This year, David Carpenter, a Jefferson County judge, examined a long-shot court pleading Mr. Kennard had submitted, with help from a jailhouse lawyer. Judge Carpenter appointed me to represent Mr. Kennard and look into options for resentencing him.”