A 67-year-old man named Guy Frank is celebrating his freedom after living behind bars for the last 20 years. Frank, a Louisiana native, was caught stealing two shirts from a Saks Fifth Avenue in New Orleans and that action cost him two decades of his life. Originally sentenced to 23 years, he’s finally free.
According to a WDSU-local news report, back in September of 2000, Frank had been caught stealing the shirts from the men’s department of the Canal Street Saks store in New Orleans. Although the shirts were immediately returned to the store, Frank was arrested and detained.
Frank had reportedly been suffering from severe heroin addiction at the time and had been consistently stealing to support his habit. He was booked and charged on a count of theft of goods valued at less than $500, as reported by Complex.
At the time of the crime, Louisiana considered such action to be a felony, resulting in a 23-year sentence. The Innocence Project New Orleans claims that he was able to get such a hefty sentence due to “Louisiana’s multiple offender law, which can subject people who have never committed a violent crime to decades in prison.”
Perhaps a way for America to continue to feed their hunger for mass incarceration, they were able to utilize the “three strikes rule” as he had three prior convictions. Thanks to Innocence Project New Orleans’ Unjust Punishment Project, Franks’s case was identified and they were able to proceed to advocate for him and his vindication.
“Mr. Frank’s case gets to the heart of what is wrong with Louisiana’s multiple offender law,” the IPNO wrote in their Instagram post. “He received this egregious sentence despite the fact that he was never a threat to anyone, and had never done more than steal in small amounts. His case shows how poor Black people are disproportionately affected by these extreme sentences. It is hard to imagine a White person with resources receiving this sentence for this crime.”
Furthermore, in a statement provided by WDSU local news, the IPNO delved into the actions of the justice system as it pertains to Frank and the harsh sentencing. “Even though he accepted responsibility for his crime, lawyers at District Attorney Harry Connick’s office asked that the judge find him to be a multiple offender, because he had been convicted of theft multiple times before, and to enhance his sentence. Judge Sharon Hunter imposed on him a sentence of 23 years in the Department of Corrections without the possibility of parole,” the statement said.
Currently, there is a GoFundMe set up for Franks to be able to rebuild after being incarcerated for so long.